Bloomberg has a story about Gatik, described as a self-driving vehicle startup that "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."
CEO and co-founder Gautam Narang tells Bloomberg that the company operates "between fixed locations. We over-optimize the technology to focus on these routes. Some of the edge cases are reduced because we know the routes so intimately; we know the drive patterns. Because of all this, the go-to-market time is faster." The goal, he says, "is let’s get close to the customer. Let’s shrink that delivery window."
Basically, the argument seems to be that by focusing on the B2B portion of the delivery experience - and avoiding the more problematic and capricious demands of B2C delivery - Gatik is able to be more structured in its approach. Narang also argues that the company has a certain amount of exclusivity in the space because this isn't the sexy segment of the autonomous vehicle space.
"In terms of dire competitors, there are none," he says. "No other company in the AV space is using box-truck architecture. Other companies are going after B-2-C and the long-haul. But if you’re going after general autonomy problems, you’re trying to boil the ocean. Level four autonomy is at least 4 to 5 years out and level 5 - if it’s even possible - is at least 10 years out. With structured autonomy we can avoid schools, hospitals, fire stations, blind curves, etc. All of that is fair game."
- KC's View:
I love the metaphor. It is a lot easier to boil a pot of water than it is to "boil the ocean." You get results a lot faster, and are in a position to do more with it.
BTW … Gatik may be interested in slow lanes and middle miles, but it has a fast partner these days. Walmart. Narang says that after a year of deployment, Walmart is running Gatik's self-driving vehicles seven days a week, 10 to 12 hours a day.