Clear lanes. Full tanks. Can’t wait!
As pioneers in the autonomous vehicle industry, we have long believed that long-haul trucking will be the first commercial application of autonomous technology at scale. Kodiak Robotics was founded in April 2018 to make that vision a reality.
Over the last few months, there’s been a wave of pessimism about the future of self-driving technology. Some of that pessimism is warranted — we’re still a long way from being able to hail a self-driving taxi on the crowded streets of New York or San Francisco or Austin.
But at Kodiak we think all the gloom is a bit premature. As hard as it is to navigate city streets, autonomous vehicles are much closer to being able to drive on more structured interstate highways, which have no jaywalking pedestrians, no aggressive cyclists, and no runaway pets. That’s why we’ve focused on building technology specifically for long-haul trucks driving on highway routes, often referred to as the “middle mile”.
Just 16 months after our launch, we’re proud to be making two big announcements:
- We’ve started operating as a freight carrier, and are now delivering freight using our self-driving technology with a safety driver behind the wheel.
- We’ve chosen to make Texas our home base for testing and operations.
In just over a year, we’ve gone from founding Kodiak to building a team of over 60 employees. We’ve built our software stack from the ground up and integrated cutting-edge AV technology, such as LiDARs, radars, and cameras into our trucks. We’ve done extensive testing in simulation, on closed test tracks, and on public roads in California. Now, we’re continuing to build out our fleet for testing and delivery in Texas. Making such rapid progress wouldn’t be possible without our strong, experienced team, who’ve been working with autonomous vehicles since the early days of the industry. As industry veterans, we’ve seen where self-driving technology has fallen short, and have a clear vision for how to make it work and work safely. It’s this experience that allowed us to build a production vehicle and get it on the road in just 16 months, while always prioritizing safety and refusing to cut corners.
We chose Texas because of its great people, freight-rich economy, reasonable regulatory structure, and robust infrastructure. And the State of Texas, from Governor Abbott to the Department of Public Safety, to the Texas Department of Transportation, the Texas A&M Transportation Institute and other public sector partners could not have been more welcoming. We look forward to deepening our partnerships, as we work together to make Texas the home of self-driving trucks.
As we reach this milestone, we also wanted to tell the world a bit more about who we are.
Safety is our top priority
Among the many problems autonomous technology can help address, road safety is the most important. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, in 2018, there were nearly 5,000 vehicular deaths involving long-haul trucks. We think this number is unacceptable, and believe autonomous technology is part of the solution. Making roads safer is core to who we are and everything we do.
Our trucks will not drive drunk, distracted or drowsy. Our trucks will never speed, or text while driving. While humans often repeat their mistakes, software learns from them. Most importantly, we will not put a truck on the road without a human behind the wheel until we have proven that our trucks are safer than a human driver. Full stop.
We are more than a tech company
Yes, of course Kodiak is a tech company, but we’re also a true freight carrier, hauling goods safely, efficiently, and seamlessly for our customers. We are now hauling freight for commercial clients, using our autonomous technology. By making the middle mile driverless, we will bring the promise of self-driving technology not only to our customers, but to all motorists.
We think about autonomy differently
We’re taking a different approach to autonomy, one that we think positions us to be the first company to deploy scalable self-driving technology commercially at scale. Here is what makes us different:
Building for production, not prototypes:
Demonstration runs are important, but it’s critical that you don’t chase a perfect demonstration at the expense of a production vehicle. We’re not building proofs-of-concept, we’re building a solution.
It’s one thing to make a delivery with the cameras on, but it’s another to make thousands of deliveries that meet your customers’ needs over the life of a truck. Trucks are built for a million miles, and that life cycle demands an autonomy stack that can also last through Texas thunderstorms and summer heat. We’ve taken a top-down, systems engineering approach that draws on our team’s experience to build a system ready for these challenges. It is this above all else that sets us apart.
Building for trucks, not cars:
We’ve learned from experience that self-driving trucks are different from self-driving cars. Building a self-driving truck using technology originally developed for a car may save time in the short term, but ultimately will not get the job done. That’s why we are building a full-stack solution designed for trucks. Our hardware is tested and calibrated for our trucks and our software is designed to take advantage of that hardware.
Driving the hardest miles:
Many in the self-driving industry have worked to log as many miles as possible, hoping to iron out every possible issue over time. This is where we have a different philosophy. Testing to resolve uncertainty and ensure proper safety is not just about logging miles, it’s about logging the hardest miles. At Kodiak, we work to maximize learning and truck utilization while minimizing cost and risk exposure. We believe that driving the most difficult miles, and learning from those miles, will ultimately help us realize the promise of this technology safely, quickly and at scale.
It’s been a busy 16 months for our team, and we couldn’t be more excited for what’s to come. We look forward to sharing more about our journey.
See you on the road!