Walmart’s Self-Driving Partner Is Changing E-Commerce Economics

Specifically, the three-year-old company is focused on so-called middle-mile delivery, the oft-overlooked leg between when, say, a sweater is trucked across the country and when it is ferried over the last few miles and dropped on someone’s porch. For three years now, Gatik has been strapping sensors all over vans and small trucks and moving groceries from large distribution centers to small warehouses, albeit with a human back-up driver aboard.

In a world of moon-shot technology, billion-dollar capital rounds and promises to disrupt private (and public) transportation as we know it, Gatik’s ambition is humble. Last summer, it raised $4.5 million from investors, a pint-sized sum among self-driving ventures. Though Gatik may not be sexy, its slow-lane approach has proved to be pragmatic and lucrative. Last summer, Walmart signed on as one of its first customers.

It turns out grocery delivery wasn’t a bad place to be when the pandemic broke out. We caught up with CEO and co-founder Gautam Narang, an alum of Carnegie Mellon’s robotics program, to get a state-of-play on one of the smallest, savviest players in the critical space where transportation meets retail.