Autonomous delivery startups get funding boost

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by Emily Atkins
NuPort Robotics CEO Raghavender Sahdev says the results of early testing with Canadian Tire are promising.

Two Ontario-based autonomous middle-mile trucking developers have won funding from the Ontario government.

NuPort Robotics, with funding of $3 million (a third each from Canadian Tire, the government, and its own resources) will retrofit two semi-tractors with its AI-enabled autonomy for testing on middle-mile routes.

Gatik has been awarded $997,706 from the province, which it will use – along with another $8,000,000 in industry funding – to winterize its autonomous driving technology.

Both projects are supported by Ontario’s Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network’s (AVIN) R&D Partnership Fund. AVIN is led by the Ontario Centre of Innovation (OCI), and provides research and development (R&D) support, talent development, technology acceleration, business and technical supports, and demonstration grounds

NuPort Robotics CEO Raghavender Sahdev says their trucks are currently moving goods between a Canadian Tire distribution centre in the Greater Toronto Area and nearby rail terminals within a 20 kilometre radius, and “early results are promising”.

“The aim of the project is to develop a system that incorporates an autopilot feature for conventional trucks with a driver, leading to the most efficient way to drive and increase safety. The sensors work as a ‘safety cocoon’ to cover blind spots and prevent accidents,” Sahdev added.

The trucks always carry a human driver, and are fitted with high-tech sensors and controls, a touchscreen navigation system, and other autonomous driving features such as obstacle and collision avoidance. Sahdev said the result is peak fuel efficiency and driving performance.

“Over the last three years, Canadian Tire has made a significant effort to solve complex business problems by using the Canadian start-up artificial intelligence ecosystem,” said Cari Covent, vice president of intelligent automation, Canadian Tire.

“NuPort Robotics exemplifies what we look for in a start-up with a focus on innovation, automation and artificial intelligence.”

Gatik’s cube trucks will benefit from winterization of their autonomy technology to work better in Ontario’s climate.

Gatik fleet

Since establishing a presence in Toronto in 2019, Gatik’s fleet of fleet of 11- to 26-foot box trucks has been moving goods on behalf of retailers such as Loblaw.

Gatik has made use of AVIN’s regional sites across the province to access R&D resources, tools and equipment for its winterization project.

“Our solution provides customers with reliable capacity, control over service levels, and a sustainable and cost-effective way to scale hub-and-spoke operations,” said Gatik’s CEO and co-founder Gautam Narang.

“Over 30 percent of global commercial vehicle operations take place in winter conditions, and we want to serve this market. The operational experience and data gathered in Ontario gives us a strong understanding of how inclement weather affects our vehicles’ movements and gives us a competitive edge in the B2B short-haul logistics market across North America.”

“This project applies unique and made-in-Ontario Artificial Intelligence technology that offers increased safety and efficiency, with a reduced carbon footprint, to the goods supply chains on which we all rely,” said Vic Fedeli, Ontario minister of economic development, job creation and trade.

“This is the latest example of how Ontario’s Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network acts as a catalyst, fostering partnerships between ambitious technology start-ups and industry to develop and commercialize next generation transportation technologies that strengthen our economy and benefit society.”