These Two Companies Pair Up for Autonomous Trucks

a few trucks parked in a parking lot
These Two Companies Team Up on Autonomous TrucksGatik
  • Isuzu invests $30 million in US-based autonomous tech developer Gatik, which has been testing its SAE Level 4 systems in three regions in North America.

  • Gatik and Isuzu plan to develop a truck chassis specially designed for autonomous hardware, with an aim to launch mass production in 2027.

  • SAE Level 4 tech for trucks, which would permit driverless operation, is hoped to address "middle-mile" routes between warehouses.

The trucking industry appears ready to embrace SAE Level 4 technology that would permit driverless operations along predetermined, geofenced routes, allowing the industry to address driver shortages and ever-rising e-commerce freight volumes.


But after a few years of testing, are we any closer to a future where many so-called middle-mile routes can be performed without a driver behind the wheel?

Autonomous truck developer Gatik has been piloting its box trucks with Walmart in Arkansas, where its trucks have been performing runs between warehouses without drivers behind the wheel, demonstrating a business-to-business use case.

Now Gatik is looking to expand its operations and has partnered with Isuzu Motors Limited to design a new chassis meant for SAE Level 4 trucks, with an eye toward safety performance.

The new truck chassis will be engineered with autonomous tech in mind, with the two companies aiming for mass production of the specialized trucks starting in 2027.

Gatik has been focused on developing SAE Level 4 tech for trucks in classes 3 through 7, spanning from van-based box truck chassis to what we usually see as heavy-duty two- or three-axle box trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of up to 33,000 pounds.

2022 ford eseries gatik truck
One of Gatik’s smaller trucks, based on the Ford E-Series, performs a cargo run in Arkansas.Gatik

These trucks will be the aim of this partnership, with Isuzu expected to gain a foothold in the autonomous industry by investing $30 million into Gatik.

"As part of our April 2024 mid-term business plan announcement, we are committed to establishing three pillars of new business for the future: autonomous driving solutions, connected services, and carbon-neutral solutions," said Hiroshi Sato, executive officer of Isuzu.

So far Gatik has commercially deployed trucks in Arkansas, Texas, and Ontario, along relatively short distances. But the so-called middle-mile category, in practice, could stretch into routes that require far more distance to be covered, and could include crossing state borders.

At the moment, Gatik isn't the only one racing toward a future in which middle-mile deliveries could be performed by driverless trucks.

Lately, Texas has become the hotbed of autonomous truck testing, with a route between Dallas and Houston being eyed as one of the first commercial lanes for Level 4 trucks.

This includes the creation of a special truck depot optimized for autonomous semis and their trailers, as a preview of what we could see in the future.

“In 2021, Gatik launched the world’s first fully driverless commercial transportation service with a Fortune 500 retailer, and we are thrilled to be once again achieving an industry-first milestone by working with our partner Isuzu toward mass production of SAE Level 4 autonomous trucks," said Gautam Narang, CEO and co-Founder of Gatik.

It remains to be seen just how many US states will be on board with Level 4 driverless trucks in the coming years, given the opposition we've seen to robotaxis in some cities, and the slow pace of Level-4-friendly legislation.

But at the moment autonomous tech developers are mostly eyeing intrastate routes, so we're still some time away from the long-haul trucking industry contemplating autonomous, interstate operations.

Will we see driverless trucks in any significant number by the end of the decade, or is this something that is likely to appear further in the future? Let us know what you think.