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Kodiak unveils industry-first semi-truck designed for scaled driverless operation

Kodiak Robotics, a self-driving trucking company, has introduced what it says is “the world’s first driverless-ready semi-truck designed for scaled deployment”.

It is equipped with all the necessary redundant safety-critical hardware, including braking, steering and sensors, as well as the software required for driverless operations at scale.

Kodiak’s sixth-generation truck further enhances the overall reliability of the technology by building on Kodiak’s five years of real-world testing that includes 5,000 loads carried over more than 2.5 million miles.

This new truck will be used for Kodiak’s driverless operations, which it plans to initiate between Dallas and Houston in 2024.

The vehicle will debut at the 2024 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) at Kodiak’s LiDAR partner Luminar’s booth in the West Plaza (outside beside the Diamond Lot) at booth number WP-10.

Kodiak’s sixth-generation truck includes redundancy across all safety-critical functions, including a redundant braking system and redundant steering, redundant power, and Kodiak’s custom-designed high-integrity Actuation Control Engine (ACE) system.

Kodiak’s sixth-generation platform uses hardware that has proven safety performance in existing commercial applications.

The Kodiak Driver, Kodiak’s vehicle-agnostic self-driving system, including its redundant, driverless-ready hardware platform, is designed to be safer than a human driver. Kodiak plans to roll out its sixth-generation truck to multiple vehicle types.

The sixth-generation 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.

With this launch, Kodiak’s driverless truck design is now feature-complete across both hardware and software.

Don Burnette, founder and CEO of Kodiak, says: “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.

“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.

“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.”

Sixth generation: safety critical redundancy

  • Braking. While traditional trucks feature redundant braking systems, Kodiak is taking it one step further in the interest of safety. Kodiak’s pneumatic braking system consists of three individual brake actuators simultaneously controlled by Kodiak’s proprietary software. Should any of the braking actuators fail, the backup systems can prevent loss of control and bring the truck to a safe stop.
  • Steering. The dual-redundant steering system includes two redundant ZF actuators controlled by Kodiak’s safety system. Based on Kodiak’s safety analysis, should the primary steering actuator experience any type of failure, the steering system seamlessly switches to the secondary actuator to maintain full control without compromising the vehicle dynamics and move the vehicle into a safe state.
  • ACE System. Like Kodiak’s fourth-generation and fifth-generation trucks, the sixth-generation truck includes the Kodiak ACE, a proprietary, custom-designed, high-integrity safety computer. The ACE is responsible for ensuring that the Kodiak Driver can guide the truck to a safe “fallback” out of the flow of traffic in the unlikely event of a critical system failure.
  • Power. The sixth-generation truck includes a redundant power system, which powers the computers, sensors, actuators and all other electrical systems. The power system is split into two fully isolated subsystems that ensure all safety systems can execute a safe fallback should either fail.

Upgrades, additions and new features

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

In total, the Kodiak driverless-ready truck features 12 cameras, four LiDAR sensors, and six radar sensors. To process the increased sensor data, the Kodiak Driver relies on Nvidia GPUs for high-performance compute.

Also new to the SensorPods are top-mounted, extra-bright hazard lights that are designed to comply with the autonomous trucking industry’s application for an exemption to Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Regulation 392.22, which requires traditional truck drivers to place warning devices on a roadway after a breakdown.

Since driverless trucks can’t place road flares or other devices along the roadway, these lights will be used to alert other drivers to the presence of a truck on the side of the road, pending Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration approval.

Kodiak’s sixth-generation truck is also equipped with microphones, which are designed to detect and identify the presence of emergency vehicles and other suspicious sounds that could represent a hazard.

Lastly, the sixth-generation truck includes redundant LTE communications links, allowing it to establish highly reliable communications with Kodiak’s redundant command centers in Lancaster, Texas, and Mountain View, California.

Future enhancements

Kodiak will continue to iterate on its sixth-generation truck over the fleet’s operational lifetime, incorporating improvements and additional features as it works with partners to develop and deploy new capabilities.

For example, later in 2024 Kodiak 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.

The introduction of Kodiak’s sixth-generation truck follows the recently announced opening of a truckport to launch and land autonomous trucks, in partnership with Pilot, as well as recent partnership announcements with Loadsmith, C.R. England and Tyson, IKEA, Werner, Forward and more.

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