Kodiak Unveils First ‘Driverless-Ready’ Semi-Truck Designed for Scaled Deployment, Plans Commercial Runs on I-45 This Year

Planning to launch driverless operations between Dallas and Houston later this year out of its Lancaster hub, Kodiak says its sixth-generation driverless-ready semi-truck bristles with redundancies for safe operation—building on the Mountain View, California-based company's five years of real-world testing.

Kodiak Robotics has had an active presence in Dallas-Fort Worth since 2019, joining other autonomous trucking companies like Aurora Innovation, Waymo, Gatik, and Tu Simple in making North Texas a key hub for reimagining how truckloads can be moved on our highways and roadways.

Today Mountain View-California-based Kodiak introduced what it calls “the world’s first driverless-ready semi-truck designed for scaled deployment,” featuring “all the necessary redundant safety-critical hardware, including braking, steering and sensors, as well as the software required for driverless operations at scale.”

Getting a debut at the 2024 CES conference in Las Vegas, Kodiak’s sixth-generation truck builds on Kodiak’s five years of real-world testing, including 5,000 loads carried over more than 2.5 million miles, according to the company. 

Driverless operations slated to launch in 2024 between Dallas and Houston

The newly unveiled truck will be used for Kodiak’s driverless operations, which the company plans to launch between Dallas and Houston later this year.

On the hardware side, the truck is said to offer redundancy across all safety-critical functions, including a redundant braking system, redundant steering, redundant power, and Kodiak’s “custom-designed high-integrity Actuation Control Engine (ACE) system.”

On the software side, the new truck features “twice the GPU processor cores, 1.6x greater processing speed, 3x more memory, and 2.75x greater bandwidth to run software processes compared to Kodiak’s first-generation truck.”

 Kodiak says that with this new truck, its driverless truck design is now “feature-complete across both hardware and software.”

But the Kodiak driverless solution won’t be limited to this one truck version, the company notes. The Kodiak Driver, Kodiak’s “vehicle-agnostic” self-driving system, is slated to be rolled out to “multiple vehicle types” in the future.

‘The first and only’

“We’re the first and only company to have developed a feature complete driverless semi-truck with the level of automotive-grade safety redundancy necessary to deploy on public roads,” Don Burnette, founder and CEO of Kodiak, said in a statement.

“Over the course of 2.5 million miles, we’ve successfully demonstrated that our self-driving trucks can withstand the harsh environment of long-haul trucking from both a platform integrity and a software perspective,” Burnette added. “This truck fundamentally demonstrates that we’ve done the work necessary to safely handle driverless operations. While we continue to work with leading truck manufacturers, the technology we developed is deployment-ready, uncoupled from OEM timelines and truck manufacturer-agnostic, which allows us to move fast while keeping safety at the forefront.”

News follows Aurora milestone announcement

Today’s news follows Aurora Innovation’s announcement, also being spotlighted at the CES conference this week, that Aurora and Continental have finalized the design and architecture of the future fallback system and hardware of the Aurora Driver—an SAE Level 4 autonomous driving system—that Continental plans to start production of in 2027.

Aurora is planning to begin totally human-free commercial trucking operations in late 2024 on the same I-45 route between Dallas and Houston.

Kodiak semi-truck features ‘SensorPods’

The sixth-generation Kodiak truck includes an array of upgrades that enhance its safety, functionality, and performance, the company says. Kodiak’s proprietary SensorPods— which house the sensors and are pre-calibrated, pre-built for fast and easy repairs—include two upgraded higher-resolution, automotive-grade LiDAR sensors and two additional side radar sensors “to improve long range object detection.”

All together, the Kodiak driverless-ready truck features 12 cameras, four LiDAR sensors, and six radar sensors, the company says.

To process all that extra sensor data, the Kodiak Driver uses NVIDIA GPUs for “high-performance compute.”

So who puts out flares if the driverless truck breaks down?

Good question, and Kodiak has an answer. The new truck’s SensorPods feature top-mounted, “extra-bright” hazard lights that are designed to comply with the autonomous trucking industry’s application for an exemption to a federal regulation requiring human truck drivers to place warning devices on a roadway after a breakdown. 

The new truck also features microphones to detect and identify the presence of emergency vehicles and other potentially hazardous sounds.

It also includes redundant LTE communications links, allowing the new truck to have “highly reliable communications” with Kodiak’s redundant command centers in the Dallas suburb of Lancaster and the company’s Mountain View home base.

While Kodiak’s driverless truck design is now described as “feature complete,” that doesn’t mean the company won’t keep iterating. Later this year, Kodiak says it will integrate a next-generation Ambarella CV3-AD AI domain control system-on-chip (SoC) “to continuously improve the truck’s sensor and machine learning capabilities, while transitioning to a high-volume SoC solution that also provides high AI efficiency and performance.”

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R E A D   N E X T

  • Mountain View, California-based Kodiak Robotics—which announced an earlier partnership last May with U.S. Xpress to launch autonomous freight service between Dallas and Atlanta—today announced it has teamed up with Forward Air Corporation to roll freight between the same two cities. Through the agreement, Kodiak and Forward say they're "operating autonomous freight service 24 hours per day, six days per week between Dallas and Atlanta, making three round trips weekly."

  • Truck Yard—the retro food truck, beer garden. and "adult playground" at 5624 Sears Street off Dallas' Lower Greenville Avenue—has reopened following a reported $2 million renovation. But the place has lost none of its "dive-ish" flair. The renovations include an upsized bar and kitchen, a more weather-friendly experience with covered and enlarged patios, upgraded and wildly stylized restrooms, four fire pits, a partially turfed yard, and more.

  • Aurora Innovation—which aims to begin rolling totally human-free trucks between Dallas and Houston by late 2024—said nearly half of all truck freight in Texas moves along I-45 between Dallas and Houston, making the corridor an ideal route for Aurora’s commercial launch.

  • In partnership with Continental—which is based in Germany with a U.S. HQ in Auburn Hills, Michigan—Aurora says the two companies have finalized the design and architecture of the future fallback system and hardware of the Aurora Driver. Aurora aims to begin rolling totally human-free trucks on I-45 between Dallas and Houston in late 2024.

  • The new platform will enable Daimler Truck to explore commercial vehicle innovation and the efficient product development and lifecycle management of trucks and buses. It will be rolled out globally across Daimler Trucks' engineering hubs, brands, and business segments. "Trucks are the backbone of global supply chains and Siemens will help Daimler Truck to chart the future of carbon-neutral transportation," says Siemens' Cedrik Neike.