Kodiak autonomous semi-truck ready to deploy

  • January 16, 2024
  • Steve Rogerson

California-based Kodiak Robotics has launched what it claims is the world’s first driverless-ready semi-truck designed for scaled deployment.

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

The firm’s sixth-generation truck enhances the overall reliability of the technology by building on Kodiak’s five years of real-world testing that includes 5000 loads carried over more than four million kilometres.

This truck will be used for Kodiak’s driverless operations, which it plans to initiate between Dallas and Houston in 2024. The vehicle debuted at last week’s CES in Las Vegas.

The truck includes redundancy across all safety-critical functions, including a redundant braking system and redundant steering, redundant power, and Kodiak’s custom-designed Ace actuation control engine system. The platform uses hardware that has proven safety performance in existing commercial applications.

The Kodiak Driver, the firm’s vehicle-agnostic self-driving system, including its redundant, driverless-ready hardware platform, is designed to be safer than a human driver.

The truck has twice the GPU processor cores, 1.6 times greater processing speed, three times more memory, and 2.75 times greater bandwidth to run software processes than Kodiak’s first-generation truck.

“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,” said Don Burnette, CEO of Kodiak. “Over the course of 2.5 million miles [four million kilometres], 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.”

While traditional trucks feature redundant braking, Kodiak is taking it a step further in the interest of safety. Its pneumatic braking system consists of three individual brake actuators simultaneously controlled by proprietary software. Should any of the braking actuators fail, the backups can prevent loss of control and bring the truck to a safe stop.

The dual-redundant steering includes two redundant ZF (www.zf.com) actuators controlled by Kodiak’s safety system. Based on safety analysis, should the primary steering actuator experience any type of failure, the steering system seamlessly switches to the secondary actuator to maintain control without compromising the vehicle dynamics and move the vehicle into a safe state.

As with earlier Kodiak’s trucks, it includes the Ace 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.

The redundant power system powers the computers, sensors, actuators and all other electrical systems. It is split into two isolated subsystems that ensure all safety systems can execute a safe fallback should either fail.

Upgrades enhance its safety, functionality and performance. For example, SensorPods house the sensors and are pre-calibrated and pre-built for fast and easy repairs. They 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 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 (www.nvidia.com) GPUs.

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.

Microphones are designed to detect and identify the presence of emergency vehicles and other suspicious sounds that could represent a hazard.

Redundant LTE communications links allow it to establish reliable communications with Kodiak’s redundant command centres in Lancaster, Texas, and Mountain View, California.

Kodiak says it will continue to iterate on the truck over the fleet’s operational lifetime, incorporating improvements and additional features as it works with partners to develop and deploy capabilities. For example, later in 2024 Kodiak will integrate an Ambarella (www.ambarella.com) CV3-AD AI domain control system-on-chip (SoC) to improve the truck’s sensor and machine-learning capabilities, while transitioning to a high-volume SoC that also provides high AI efficiency and performance.

Kodiak Robotics (kodiak.ai) was founded in 2018.