Kodiak Partners with U.S. Express on First-Ever Autonomous Lane from Dallas to the East Coast

Self-driving trucking company Kodiak Robotics is teaming up with U.S. Xpress to launch autonomous freight service between Dallas and Atlanta using Kodiak's self-driving trucks—with operators in the cab to monitor things. It's the first launch of a commercial autonomous trucking lane to the East Coast, following earlier Kodiak routes from Dallas to Houston, San Antonio, and Oklahoma City.

Autonomous trucks are pulling out of Dallas-Fort Worth so often now, it might one day become news when a human driver steers one out. Only yesterday, Aurora Innovation announced it was opening new terminals in Fort Worth and El Paso to haul freight autonomously for Werner Enterprises. Today, Mountain View, California-based Kodiak Robotics is dropping news.

Kodiak is partnering with U.S. Xpress, one of America’s largest carrier fleets, to launch autonomous freight service between Dallas-Fort Worth and Atlanta using Kodiak’s self-driving trucks.

U.S. Xpress is the first cornerstone truckload partner in Kodiak’s Partner Deployment Program, working with Kodiak to deploy its self-driving technology. The partnership marks the first-ever launch of a commercial autonomous trucking lane to the East Coast.

Truck ran 24 hours a day for 131 total straight hours

The partners completed a first-of-its-kind pilot in late March, hauling four round-trip freight runs between Dallas and Atlanta 24 hours a day for 131 total hours—covering 6,350 miles over nearly five-and-a-half full days.

That must put a gleam in the eye of freight companies everywhere. One of the many challenges to human-driven trucks is the 11-hour driver service limit. That’s one reason why truck stops nationwide are often filled to the brim with parked trucks, with drivers sleeping in the cabs or shopping for beef jerky while they wait for their down time to end.

Meanwhile, the Kodiak truck on the pilot run just kept on truckin’.

“This pilot demonstrated to our operations teams and our customers the benefits that can come with autonomous technology,” said Eric Fuller, President and CEO of U.S. Xpress, in a statement. “We fundamentally believe that Kodiak’s autonomous technology will allow us to scale our fleet while increasing truck utilization compared to a human-driven truck. Our strategic partnership is helping both of our teams identify ways to quickly integrate and scale autonomous technology into our fleet once it is commercially available.”

Dallas-Atlanta run is too far, yet too short

Kodiak calls the route between Dallas and Atlanta “a perfect entry point for continuous autonomous operations” because it’s longer than what a driver is permitted to operate in a day, but too short for two drivers to economically run as a team.

“Our partnership with U.S. Xpress marks our service expansion to the East Coast,” said Don Burnette, founder and CEO of Kodiak, in the statement. “We believe it’s the furthest east any company has delivered multiple loads using autonomous technology.”

“Having the capacity to sustain 24/7 operations across the more than 750 miles between Dallas and Atlanta—two of our nation’s busiest freight hubs—represents a giant step forward for Kodiak, and for the AV trucking industry as a whole,” he added. “We chose to make U.S. Xpress a cornerstone partner in our Partner Deployment Program because we see U.S. Xpress and its Variant division as ideal long-term partners for the deployment and scaling of our autonomous long-haul solution.”

Kodiak has had a Dallas-Houston run since 2019

Kodiak has been delivering freight daily on the 240-mile lane from Dallas to Houston since mid-2019, and on the 280-mile lane between Dallas and San Antonio since mid-2021, the company noted. Kodiak says it leverages its “proprietary lightweight mapping solution to rapidly and safely add new lanes,” including the recent February launch of commercial operations between Dallas and Oklahoma City.

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