668ed9b9fb21f4348888d9bc Gatik Figure 1 Promo

Investment Sparks Joint Effort to Build Autonomous-Driving Freight Business

July 10, 2024
Autonomous transportation-as-a-service: Isuzu’s investment in Gatik is with the intent of developing trucking services based on SAE Level 4, with a goal of starting mass production in 2027.

What you'll learn:

  • The path to middle-mile logistics.
  • The different classes of autonomous trucks.
  • Details of the Isuzu-Gatik collaboration to develop Level 4 trucking services.


The forecast for autonomous vehicles is that we’ll be seeing a lot more of them in the future. The surprising element, though, is that the trucking sector, facing driver shortages and ever-increasing e-commerce freight traffic, appears much more ready to embrace SAE Level 4 autonomous technology than the passenger vehicle segment of the industry.

This shift toward commercial vehicle autonomy is best illustrated by Isuzu’s investing US$30 million in Gatik, a company that focuses on short-haul, B2B logistics for Fortune 500 retailers. In 2021, Gatik launched the world’s first fully driverless commercial transportation service with Walmart. Since then, its trucks have been performing runs between warehouses without drivers behind the wheel. 

“In 2021, Gatik launched the world’s first fully driverless commercial transportation service with a Fortune 500 retailer, and we are thrilled to be once again achieving an industry-first milestone by working with our partner Isuzu toward mass production of SAE Level 4 autonomous trucks," said Gautam Narang, CEO and co-founder of Gatik.

The aim is to realize mobility services based on Level 4 autonomous driving with the goal of starting mass production in 2027. The two companies will jointly design and develop a new chassis with safety performance that’s compatible with the installation of an autonomous-driving system.

Achieving the Middle Mile

The agreement between Isuzu and Gatik is focused on the development of autonomous middle-mile logistics services—middle mile is a descriptive term for routes between warehouses in North America—using Class 3-7 trucks to deliver goods safely and efficiently. 

Think of it as a bridge connecting the initial and final stages of the delivery process, transferring goods between warehouses and from other local hubs to regional distribution centers. This stage is also where goods usually cover the most distance.

Gatik’s application of the middle mile is a bit different than the traditional notion. Historically, the middle mile of the supply chain represented the leg traveled on long-haul highway routes, after the first mile getting to the highway, and after the last mile exiting the highway and traveling to a warehouse or point-of-sale location. 

Gatik’s middle mile exists in relatively modern hub-and-spoke supply-chain models. These have emerged in response to customer demand for rapid (same or next-day) delivery and contactless service. 

This customer pressure has moved distribution center locations closer to urban areas. In turn, the traditionally highway-focused routes of the middle mile have transformed to routes within urban and semi-urban settings.

Autonomous Box Trucks: From Class 3 to Class 7

Gatik’s Class 3-7 autonomous box trucks are commercially deployed in multiple markets, including Texas, Arkansas, and Ontario. By moving goods between distribution centers, fulfillment centers, stores, and warehouses, Gatik is optimizing regional distribution networks for major customers that in its case also include Kroger, Loblaw, Pitney Bowes, and Tyson Foods.

Class 3 (10,001 to 14,000 lbs.) vehicles represent Walk-in Box Trucks or Heavy-Duty Pickup trucks for city delivery. Class 4 (14,001 to 16,000 lbs.) are Large Walk-in Box Trucks also for city delivery. Class 5 (16,001 to 19,500 lbs.) covers Bucket Trucks (commercial trucks with a hydraulic arm and a bucket or boom that extends to greater heights) and Large Walk-in city delivery trucks. Class 6 (9,501 to 16,000 lbs.) represents vehicles such as Beverage Trucks or School Buses. And Class 7 (26,001 to 33,000 lbs.) includes city Transit Buses or Furniture Trucks.

This agreement marks the first time an OEM and an autonomy partner have committed to work together to establish a dedicated production facility for mass production of L4-capable autonomous trucks. It marks a significant step beyond the R&D phase of other industry and OEM collaborations. 

Details of the Gatik-Isuzu Pact

Under the terms of the agreement, Gatik will collaborate with Isuzu on the design, development, and production of an SAE L4 production-ready, autonomous truck with safety-critical redundant systems (including braking, steering and sensors, as well as software). Complete validation is required for operating at scale without a human driver. 

This truck platform will be manufactured on a first-of-its-kind production line at a dedicated manufacturing facility that will be established by Isuzu and begin operations in 2027.

Since Gatik began autonomous deliveries, the company has completed over 600k commercial orders. Its current fleet of more than 60 trucks has been delivering loads with a 100% safety record, according to the company.

Given that Gatik vehicles carry goods, and not people, the company is able to optimize the route for safety while balancing the efficiency needed to reliably deliver on-time for its customers. The company avoids school zones and other areas of high pedestrian traffic such as hospitals or mid-block crossing locations. 

It can make time-of-day adjustments, when necessary, to the routes where there are known peaks in pedestrian/bicyclist/other vulnerable roadway user activity. It’s also able to avoid areas containing emergency services, like police and fire stations, and tailor these decisions to local data as observed in real-time.

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