Driverless grocery trucks on the road in Mississauga, Brampton and across the GTA


Published October 6, 2022 at 11:35 am

(Photo: Gatik Twitter)

A new type of grocery delivery truck has hit the streets in Mississauga, Brampton and other parts of the GTA–one that drives itself.

In fact, there are five of them now on the roads in what’s believed to be the first initiative of its kind in Canada.

So, drivers and pedestrians shouldn’t be alarmed if they see a Loblaw Companies Ltd. delivery vehicle on city streets and highways that’s operating without anyone in the driver’s seat.

The self-driving, multi-temperature trucks will deliver goods to Loblaw stores in Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton and other suburbs using fixed routes. They’re expected to run seven days a week, 12 hours a day.

Canada’s largest grocer, which is headquartered in Brampton, has partnered with Palo Alto, California-based autonomous logistics company Gatik to get the trucks onto the street.

Loblaw has been testing the self-driving technology since 2020, those trial runs completed with a human driver on board in the interests of safety.

More recent tests, in the past couple of months, were conducted without any person on board.

Of the five delivery trucks now on the GTA streets, four have “safety drivers” sitting in the passenger seat while one is completely self-driving with no human safety net in the vehicle.

During Ontario testing, the five trucks completed some 150,000 deliveries with a person on board and in April of this year, according to Gatik, it received approval from Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation to operate fully driverless vehicles.

Gatik says those 150,000 trips were completed with a 100 per cent safety record.

“This milestone marks the expansion of Gatik’s autonomous delivery service to Loblaw’s customers across multiple sites,” Gatik CEO and co-founder Gautam Narang said in a news release. “Canada is the latest market in which we’ve launched our fully driverless service…It’s a privilege to achieve this commercial and technical landmark with Canada’s largest retailer.”

Loblaw officials say the driverless trucks will improve supply chain efficiency, something that has proven problematic in both the U.S. and Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Working with Gatik, we’ve demonstrated that autonomous driving technology enables supply chain efficiency, moving more orders more frequently for our customers,” said David Markwell, chief technology and analytics officer for Loblaw Companies Ltd. “Being the first in Canada with this technology and deploying a fully driverless solution is exciting and illustrates our commitment to making grocery shopping better for customers.”

In addition to working with the provincial government, Gatik also reportedly sat down with municipal authorities and police/emergency services in Mississauga, Brampton and at the Region of Peel in order to get its self-driving trucks plan off the ground.

During the testing phase, Gatik also received a strong passing grade from a third-party technology services company commissioned by Loblaw.

Because the vehicles travel on fixed routes, Gatik said its driverless technology can navigate more predictably than situations such as driverless cars steering through traffic in real time.

The trucks are programmed to either come to a full stop or pull off to the side of the road should an obstruction appear in front of them. A remote supervisor would then send instructions about how to proceed from there.

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