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Sam’s Clubs in the Dallas area are getting toilet paper deliveries from driverless trucks now

June 7, 2022, 9:49 PM UTC

Autonomous vehicle startup Gatik is bringing its self-driving trucks to the roads of the Dallas/Fort Worth area, where they will deliver paper goods to several Sam’s Club stores this summer.

The company announced in a blog post on Tuesday its partnership with Georgia-Pacific and KBX, the transportation arm for Koch Industries, to bring toilet paper and Dixie disposable dishware to 34 of the warehouse club’s locations starting in July.

For the first time, deliveries will be made using 26-foot-long box trucks, much smaller than the heavy-duty Class 8 tractor trailers typically used to transport products to stores. The smaller trucks allow for Gatik to make more frequent trips along shorter, urban routes, with the startup promising 24/7 service. 

“Our operations will increase the number of Georgia-Pacific fulfillment runs to Sam’s Club locations from 1–2 days per week to 2–4 days per week,” Gatik said in its blog post.

In its post, the company references the nation’s truck driver shortage, supply-chain pressures, and rising transportation costs as reasons for more widespread adoption of driverless trucks. 

“Once proven, we believe autonomous deliveries will enable us to remove cost and complexity from the supply chain,” Hayes Shimp, vice president of sales for Georgia-Pacific, said in a statement.

Gatik CEO Gautam Narang told TechCrunch he hopes to eventually expand the fleet of autonomous trucks beyond Texas. 

“The first phase is targeted toward making sure that the network is ready for AV adoption,” Narang said. “The aim is long term. We want to deploy our trucks and get the network ready for nationwide expansion.”

Gatik previously used autonomous trucks in 2021 on a Walmart delivery route that moved customer orders between a Walmart Neighborhood Market and a “dark store” fulfillment center. The company said then that it was the first time in the industry that a commercial delivery route had been assigned to an autonomous truck, without a safety driver.

Another player in the industry, Alphabet’s Waymo, said Tuesday it would work with Uber to deploy self-driving trucks on Uber Freight, a platform that matches truck drivers with shipping firms.

June 8., 2022: A previous version headline for this story misstated which company was deploying driverless trucks.

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