Gatik and Loblaw Discuss the Road Ahead at DiscoveryX

  • Updates from Gatik
  • April 25, 2024
Gatik and Loblaw Discuss the Road Ahead at DiscoveryX

The autonomous vehicle (AV) industry has undergone an incredibly visible evolution over the past few years, and 2024 is shaping up to mark important milestones. With our autonomous transportation as a service (ATaaS) model proving the market viability of AV technology throughout those years, it’s no surprise that many are looking to Gatik for answers on where the industry is headed. Most recently, Sam Saad, Gatik’s VP of Strategic Initiatives, was asked to speak on a fireside chat at DiscoveryX in Toronto.

Now in its 15th year, DiscoveryX is one of the leading tech conferences in Canada. It draws thousands of innovators, thought leaders and visionaries together to discuss and discover how advancements in technology are transforming various industries throughout the country and the world. And when it comes to transformative technology in Canada, Gatik has undoubtedly made its mark. In 2020 we expanded our operations into Canada with a 12,000 square foot facility in Toronto, and within two years conducted our first driverless commercial delivery in the country.

Joining Sam onstage to discuss our growth in Canada was Wayne Scott, Senior Director of Transport Maintenance for Loblaw. In 2020 we began autonomous delivery for Loblaw, Canada’s largest retailer. The entry of our ATaaS operations into the Canadian market followed 10 months of on-road testing in Ontario to ensure the safety and reliability of our technology.

Innovation and Collaboration in Ontario

Mona Eghanian, Assistant Vice President at OVIN (Ontario Vehicle Innovation Network), the panel’s host, began the discussion by touching on the Ontario government’s support of those initial operations. OVIN is the province’s flagship initiative for promoting automotive and mobility technological advancement and economic development. In early 2021 we announced our partnership with OVIN and their support to accelerate the winterization of our AV technology. Since opening our doors to the Canadian market, Gatik has established deep working relationships with the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO), the regulatory authority responsible for overseeing the province’s Automated Vehicle Program, and the Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade (MEDJCT), which supports technological innovation and economic growth in Ontario.

With strong support from Ontario’s government ecosystem and a long-term partnership with Loblaw, Gatik achieved the first driverless commercial deployment in Canada in 2022. The deployment followed a three-month safety assessment by an independent third party. Standards from ISO/SAE and NHTSA were addressed, with tests that involved intentional faults across the numerous systems and sensors utilized in our AV stack. Systems tests included evaluation of the development and deployment processes, standards and regulatory compliance, risk assessment, and evaluation of control measures. Meanwhile, physical tests included GPS jamming, or spoofing, to disrupt navigation, and disabling brakes or sending incorrect acceleration commands with objects in front. Loblaw’s commitment to community safety led them to commission the assessment, which ultimately further reinforced the overwhelming safety of our technology.

“Safety is at the heart of everything we do at Gatik.”

It’s a concern that’s frequently addressed in any AV conversation and one that Mona questioned both Sam and Wayne on. She sought to provide the audience with some honest, straightforward answers to a topic that’s always top of mind for our team, our customers and the communities we serve. Though we have a dedicated safety team focused on ensuring the trucks utilizing our technology are safer and more predictable than the most experienced human driver, and a development approach that prioritizes safety at every avenue, the real-world statistics are what really matter. According to Transport Canada, there were 2,984 injury collisions involving trucks in 2021. That same year there were 133 fatal collisions involving trucks. By the end of 2022 Gatik had transported more than 150,000 autonomous deliveries for Loblaw, with a 100% safety record with our Automated Driving System (ADS) engaged.

Support, Not Replacement

Mona followed up the comparison of autonomous to human capabilities and statistics with the also often-cited concern of jobs. For many, the question of safety is not just about the risk of injury but also the risk of unemployment. When presented with this concern, Sam acknowledged the validity of the concern while also highlighting the reality of the market, today and for the future.

Our ATaaS operations focused on the middle mile grew out of a historic convergence of events: massive job vacancies, a shift in the commercial transportation model, and a huge increase in consumer demand. Out of the pandemic came a slew of unfilled truck driver positions, further impacting an already strained supply chain.

Recent studies in Canada indicate that there are over 20,000 vacant driver positions in the country, with over 34,000 drivers expected to leave the industry by the end of the year. With a growing number of vacancies, and no signs of decreased numbers by the close of the decade, the demand for an autonomous solution is understandable. And because of the immense number of openings, and intensifying customer demand for higher frequency trips, even the most aggressive AV growth models will not eliminate all driver positions in the foreseeable future. Rather, truck drivers will continue to have safe, secure jobs, while the AV fleet working alongside them will allow retailers to meet the growing consumer demand for speed and selection.

Freight-Only at Scale

The panel closed with a discussion of what the future of autonomous trucking and transportation holds for Canada. Some analysts have pointed to 2024 as the year that will shake out the AV industry, with clear success stories from this year dictating how autonomy impacts the second half of the decade. Throughout the panel, as well as the past three years of partnership, it was clear that our ATaaS operations have been a success for Loblaw and the customers they serve.

Since that first driverless delivery for them, we’ve continued to evolve and expand the capabilities of our technology. Continually focused on safety and reliability, we’re developing for further scaling of our network. The number of trucks in our fleet, and the human jobs responsible for maintaining and growing our operations, is anticipated to increase dramatically over the next few years. While we anticipate many more notable opportunities to discuss autonomous transportation as a service, our market growth this year will leave no doubt that we own the middle mile.

To learn more about how Gatik can autonomously support your supply chain, visit our Customers page.

About Gatik

Gatik, the leader in autonomous middle mile logistics, is revolutionizing B2B logistics with autonomous transportation-as-a-service (ATaaS) and prioritizing safe, consistent deliveries and streamlining freight movement by reducing congestion. The company focuses on short-haul, B2B logistics for Fortune 500 retailers and in 2021 launched the world’s first fully driverless commercial transportation service with Walmart. Gatik’s Class 3-7 autonomous box trucks are commercially deployed in multiple markets including Texas, Arkansas, and Ontario. Gatik is partnered with industry leaders including Ryder, Goodyear and Isuzu. Founded in 2017 by veterans of the autonomous technology industry, the company has offices in Mountain View, Dallas Fort Worth and Toronto.