Don’t be surprised if you soon see driverless delivery trucks on North Texas roadways – they’re making food deliveries to three Dallas-Fort Worth area Kroger stores.
The company announced a partnership with autonomous truck delivery company Gatik to deliver the food. Gatik will operate 20-foot trucks that are capable of transporting frozen food seven days a week to make multiple deliveries to three Kroger locations from the company’s Dallas distribution center.
Kroger is also conducting pilot tests with autonomous vehicle company Nuro to do autonomous home deliveries.
Gatik, headquartered in Mountain View, California, has an operations hub out of the AllianceTexas Mobility Innovation Zone in Fort Worth. Gatik also completes deliveries to Sam’s Clubs across DFW, and to Walmarts in Arkansas and Louisiana. It operates 25 trucks in North Texas and 45 nationwide.
Gatik’s partnership with Kroger will start sometime in spring.
The goal is to increase the speed of fulfilling online orders and reduce costs. Raúl Bujalil, vice president of supply chain strategy and technology enablers at Kroger, said customers will benefit greatly from the partnership.
“These autonomous box trucks will help us continue our commitment to creating a seamless shopping experience – where customers can access their favorite fresh foods, with zero compromise on value or convenience,” Bujalil wrote in a statement.
Trucks will run 12 hours a day, seven days a week and will be doing a minimum of four runs to each of the drop off locations, Gatik spokesman Richard Steiner said. The trucks will start with a “safety driver” before letting the vehicles on the road on its own.
Safety drivers are important, Steiner said, because they collect a huge amount of data to ensure the delivery truck can navigate the roads without getting into harm’s way. Safety drivers could be in the vehicle anywhere from 19-25 months, he said.
North Texas is a hub for autonomous vehicles. Aurora Innovation Inc. is collaborating with Werner to launch a 600-mile autonomous truck route from Fort Worth to El Paso. Alphabet’s Waymo opened a hub that operates 20 autonomous trucks in Lancaster, and plans to add a self-driving route between Fort Worth and Houston. Texas has regulations that promote the industry.
“It’s a really good place for us to be both from the regulatory environment, from the commercial environment,” Steiner said. “We’re looking forward to continuing to lay down very, very deep roots in the state.”