Kodiak Robotics debuts production-ready driverless tech

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Updated Jan 10, 2024
Kodiak Kenworth
Kodiak says its 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.

Kodiak Robotics, a developer of self-driving truck technology, introduced Tuesday at the 2024 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, its first driverless-ready semi-truck designed for scaled deployment.

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 CCJ Top 250 fleets C.R. England (No. 26), Werner (No. 13) and Forward Air (No. 34), among others. 

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.

The Kodiak Driver, Kodiak’s vehicle-agnostic self-driving system, is redundant, driverless-ready hardware platform, and is designed to be safer than a human driver. The truck features twice the GPU processor cores, 1.6-times greater processing speed, 3-times more memory, and 2.75-times 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.

This sixth-generation truck will be used for Kodiak’s driverless operations  between Dallas and Houston this year.

“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 Kodiak CEO and Founder Don Burnette, adding his company has logged 2.5 million miles, successfully demonstrating "that our self-driving trucks can withstand the harsh environment of long-haul trucking from both a platform integrity and a software perspective."

Gen6: 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 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 â€śfallback” 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 Regulation392.22, 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 AmbarellaCV3-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.

Jason Cannon has written about trucking and transportation for more than a decade and serves as Chief Editor of Commercial Carrier Journal. A Class A CDL holder, Jason is a graduate of the Porsche Sport Driving School, an honorary Duckmaster at The Peabody in Memphis, Tennessee, and a purple belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu. Reach him at [email protected]. 
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