Gatik, a two-year-old startup developing an autonomous vehicle stack for business-to-business short-haul logistics, today emerged from stealth with $4.5 million in seed funding led by Innovation Endeavors, with participation from Trucks Venture Capital, Dynamo Venture Capital, Fontinalis Partners, and AngelPad. Coinciding with the close of its funding round, the Toronto and Palo Alto, California-based company announced that it’s inked a deal with Walmart and additional commercial partners that’ll be revealed later in the year.

“We are a strong believer in autonomous vehicle technology, and we look forward to learning more about how Gatik’s innovation can benefit our customers in the coming months,” said senior vice president of digital operations at Walmart Tom Ward of the partnership.

Gatik’s platform taps level 4 autonomous light commercial trucks and vans — i.e., trucks and vans capable of operating with limited human input and oversight in specific conditions and locations (as defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers) — to fulfill on-demand and scheduled deliveries up to a collective distance of 200 miles. Its fleet of retrofitted Ford Transit vans, which the company has been testing on public roads in California since the first quarter of 2018, together with its robust orchestration software ensures that goods are transported up to 50% less expensively in city environments between locations, Gatik claims.

“There is a huge gap between autonomous Class 8 big rig trucks, which can only operate on highways, and smaller automated vehicles such as sidewalk robots and Nuro vehicles, which are restricted by operation speed, capacity, distance, and the curb. Gatik fills the critical ‘middle mile’ part of logistics, which is only becoming more valuable as a layer in the $800 billion logistics ecosystem,” said Trucks Venture Capital founding general partner Reilly Brennan. “We’re inspired by Gatik’s vision and expertise to solve the untapped market of urban short-haul delivery logistics.”

Gatik is the brainchild of Carnegie Mellon graduate and CEO Gautam Narang and CTO Arjun Narang (CTO), brothers and cofounders that have worked together in the field of robotics, AI, and machine learning for over 10 years. Along with third cofounder, chief engineer Apeksha Kumavat, they and the company’s roster hail from Carnegie Mellon, Ford, and Honda’s self-driving research units; from robotics firm OTSAW Digital; and from teams that competed in Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency challenges and the Google X Prize for moon rover technology.

“Our team is made up of the very best minds from academia and industry,” said Kumavat. “Collectively, we have made critical contributions and technological breakthroughs in robotics and machine learning that has enabled us to build and launch an autonomous service that is filling a gap in the market where the vehicles are on the road (not on the sidewalk), operating on city roads, and traveling longer distances (typically up to 100 miles), and with a much higher payload.”

Currently, Gatik is targeting third-party logistics providers (such as FedEx, UPS, and USPS), consumer goods distributors, food and beverage distributors, medical and pharmaceutical distributors, and auto parts distributors.

Gatik isn’t Walmart’s first foray into driverless car technology, it’s worth noting. In January, it collaborated with Udelv to pilot autonomous deliveries in select stores. And in November, Ford teamed up with Postmates to test self-driving grocery delivery in the Miami area.

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