There's one question that permeates almost every discussion surrounding self-driving vehicles: When are they coming? For self-driving truck startup Kodiak Robotics, there's a more relevant question: Where are they coming?
In the company's two-year existence, Kodiak engineers have concentrated on geography instead of timelines.
Kodiak's autonomous technology is purpose-built to handle driving on what the company describes as a narrow operational domain. The company envisions trucks driving themselves on highways between
"truckports" located alongside interstates or nearby frontage roads. Once trucks reach
those destinations, cargo can be switched to a human-driven truck or a driver can hop in one of Kodiak's Kenworth T680s cabs.
"It happens that the technology fits better for trucks," Daniel Goff, Kodiak's head of policy, told Automotive News. "Think of how hard city driving is. If you see a pedestrian 100 feet ahead, you might assume they're crossing the street. Most of the time that's right, but you don't really know. On highways, it's simple. If you see a pedestrian ahead, you stop."
Kodiak Robotics filed a voluntary safety self-assessment with federal regulators this month in which the company says the comparative simplicity of highway operations will allow it to deploy its self-driving system "in the relative near term."
The document sheds further light on the Mountain View, Calif., company's technology, safety practices and testing protocols. It's the fourth company focused on autonomous trucking to send a self-assessment to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Kodiak joins TuSimple, Ike Robotics and the now-closed Starsky Robotics. Two others, Waymo and Aurora, are building virtual drivers they intend to deploy across a variety of platforms, including trucks.