Gatik AI has undertaken pilots with Walmart and Canadian retailer Loblaw in the two years since it emerged from stealth, in an attempt to establish that self-driving technology mixed with box trucks provides the secret economic sauce for moving products short distances.
With a new round of funding, the firm is expanding into Texas, its fourth market. Gatik announced on Tuesday that it has raised $85 million in a Series B investment headed by Koch Disruptive Technologies, Koch Industries’ venture arm.
Existing investors included Innovation Endeavours, Wittington Ventures, FM Capital, Dynamo Ventures, Trucks VC, Intact Ventures, and others. Gatik has thus far raised $114.5 million. In a recent interview, Gatik CEO and co-founder Gautam Narang said, “We are very much in expansion mode in growth mode and felt that Koch Industries would provide the most value,” adding that the company is a strategic investor.
Gatik has been transporting goods as part of Walmart’s trial projects in Arkansas and Louisiana, as well as Loblaw Companies Limited’s pilot program in Ontario, Canada, in 2020, Gatik and Isuzu formed production collaboration with the goal of mass-producing medium-duty autonomous vehicles by early 2023. Gatik, unlike other self-driving delivery startups, isn’t aimed at customers. Instead, the company is employing its self-driving trucks to transport groceries and other items from massive distribution centers to retail stores. For example, Gatik transports items for Loblaw with around five box trucks.
Gatik has removed the human safety driver on one route in Arkansas, meaning that some of the autonomous box trucks used to transport commodities are now “driverless.” Safety operators will be removed from all of the company’s box trucks. Gatik announced the opening of a self-driving trucking facility in the AllianceTexas Mobility Innovation Zone, a 26,000-acre industrial, mixed-use, and residential planned development in the Dallas-Fort Worth area that has become a transportation and logistics hub. The company already transports freight for a number of customers, whom it did not name. The vehicles deployed in Texas, according to Narang, are based on Isuzu platforms.
According to Narang, the organization intends to have a presence in numerous locations across Texas. Aurora, Kodiak Robotics, TuSimple, and Waymo are among the other autonomous car technology startups that have set up shop in Texas. The choice to expand into Texas was influenced by the state’s importance as an international shipping hub, the legal environment that encourages autonomous vehicle testing and deployment on public roads, and the pleasant weather. The availability and variety of possible consumers, according to Narang, will also allow it to operate as a multi-tenant operation. This means it can serve several customers with the same truck throughout the day.