Jennifer Reardon is associate VP, transportation integration and ops support at Canadian Tire.

Jennifer Reardon is associate VP, transportation integration and ops support at Canadian Tire.

Photo courtesy of NuPort Robotics Inc.

On Mar. 11, Canadian Tire Corporation and NuPort Robotics Inc., a Toronto-based autonomous trucking company, announced a partnership with the Ontario government on an autonomous heavy-duty trucking test.

The two-year project retrofits autonomous technology from NuPort Robotics on conventional semi-tractor trailers. The trucks are operated with a safety driver.

The autonomous trucks are currently in operation, transporting goods between a Canadian Tire distribution center in the Greater Toronto Area and nearby rail terminals within a 20-kilometer radius.

NuPort is focused on this “middle-mile” scenario, according to the company. The middle mile, which involves predetermined trucking routes that are repetitive and high frequency as opposed to general highway driving, could have higher first adoption when it comes to autonomous transport.

With middle-mile autonomous routes, clients such as Canadian Tire will benefit from faster commercial deployments and improvements in supply chain sustainability, the companies said in a statement.

The $3 million investment is backed by $1 million from the Ontario government through Ontario’s Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network (AVIN) and matched by $1 million investments from Canadian Tire and NuPort Robotics.

AVIN has been active recently in its efforts to deploy autonomous technology, having funded Gatik, a Palo Alto-based autonomous technology company also focused on the middle mile. Earlier in March, AVIN’s R&D Partnership Fund awarded Gatik close to $1 million to “winterize” its autonomous driving technology.

In 2019, Gatik partnered with Loblaw, Canada’s largest grocery retailer, to deploy autonomous box trucks on fixed routes throughout greater Toronto.

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