In 2019, Walmart started working with a company called Gatik to test autonomous delivery trucks on a two mile route from a distribution center to a store in Bentonville, Arkansas. After these vehicles have driven over 70,000 miles with a human driver to make sure nothing went wrong, Walmart and Gatik say they ready for a new challenge. Next year there will be no more human drivers in the trucks.
This step will make Gatik one of the first companies in space to operate a fully autonomous route in this way. As the startup itself quickly points out, it has its streamlined approach to thank for this achievement. By keeping his vehicles autonomous on specific routes, he can limit the type of factors that can cripple them with indecision. “It’s an approach that we call structured autonomy”, said Gautam Narang, the CEO of Gatik. “It’s safe and efficient because it allows us to limit the autonomy challenge, which greatly over-optimizes our delivery routes and minimizes peak cases.