By Nick Carey

Oct. 19 (Reuters) – Truck fleet operator Ryder System Inc and Gatik announced on Tuesday that they will build an autonomous US national short-haul, “medium-mile” logistics network for Gatik, an autonomous start-up of Silicon Valley, in order to deliver goods to Company Customers.

Ryder’s venture capital arm, RyderVentures, also invested in Gatik’s latest $ 85 million funding round announced in August.

Gatik is working with Walmart Inc and Loblaw Companies Ltd to deliver merchandise to retail stores from warehouses using self-driving trucks with security drivers – although in Arkansas there are already driverless deliveries.

As part of the partnership, Gatik will lease a fleet of medium-duty trucks from Ryder – initially around 20 vehicles in the Dallas area.

Gatik will add its autonomous driving systems to these trucks, which will transport goods to outlets from distribution centers or “dark stores” – distribution centers for e-commerce businesses.

Ryder will also service and maintain the trucks leased from Gatik.

“The importance and importance of this partnership is that it allows us to expand our presence nationwide,” Gatik chief executive Gautam Narang told Reuters.

Miami-based Ryder has strived to develop expertise in autonomous driving.

Ryder manages and maintains a test fleet for Waymo Via, the autonomous truck unit of Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc.

Autonomous truck technology company TuSimple Holdings Inc uses Ryder’s maintenance sites as terminals to help it expand its U.S. autonomous freight network.

And autonomous truck technology developer Embark Trucks Inc has partnered with Ryder to launch a U.S. network of transfer points to support Emark’s autonomous operations from coast to coast.

Embark merges with blank check company Northern Genesis Acquisition Corp. II.

“We want to be a leader in understanding how it all works,” said Karen Jones, Ryder Marketing Director. “At the end of the day, getting in early with these customers is the best way to do it.”

(Reporting by Nick Carey; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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