Suppose you took the array of sensors spread across the roof and other parts of a self-driving truck and tucked them neatly into a module that sits in the same spot as the sideview mirror? That’s what autonomous truck company Kodiak Robotics Inc. has done with its fifth-generation autonomous truck platform.
This latest generation of Kodiak autonomous commercial trucks unveiled Thursday integrates the sensors needed to guide self-driving vehicles, which Kodiak calls its SensorPods, mounted on the trucks’ sideview mirrors, which founder and what CEO Don Burnett calls the “unibrow” look. Ceiling mounted sensors while enhancing performance.
In addition to 130% more GPU processing power, the new system provides 60% more central processing power and additional system redundancy, according to the company.
“Our simplified manufacturing process has added redundancy,” Burnett explained in an interview. “We’ve added more sensors. We’ve added more compute power. These systems are getting smarter. We’re adding more and more AI, more machine learning algorithms for perception, motion planning, behavioral decision making. There is a need for state-of-the-art modern, redundant, secure and reliable compute systems to handle and this is what the Gen Five platform really provides for us apart from all the modularity and maintainability benefits for our customers.
That modularity is a key factor in improving efficiency in getting those trucks moving and making money, Burnett explained, adding that the time being serviced is off the road and off the clock.
To do this Kodiak redesigned its previous SensorPod design and worked with sensor companies to change the profile of their components to better suit the packaging in the pods.
The result, Burnett said, is significantly speeding up the amount of time and equipment it takes to service the self-driving trucks — an issue brought to Kodiak by trucking companies.
“The thoughtful engineering of Kodiak’s SensorPods makes maintaining a high tech machine very easy, which will help ensure maximum uptime for our trucks. This is a key differentiator among autonomous trucking companies, and why we are working with Kodiak to incorporate their technology into our fleet,” said Douglas Veitch, vice president of strategy, 10 Roads Express, a Kodiak customer, in a statement. said in.
To accommodate the extra electronics, the SensorPod had to grow, but Burnett says it’s a worthy tradeoff.
“A lot of people will look at it and say it looks too big on the side of the truck. But the truth of the matter is, it doesn’t take up more of a footprint than the actual mirror it’s replacing,” Burnett said. “We are actually incorporating mirrors into the pod design to keep the traditional mirror for our safety drivers where it used to be. So they are a bit large, but they weigh less than 50 pounds or about 50 pounds that can be lifted by one person that can be set up and changed in less than 10 minutes.
The Mountain View, California-based company’s trucks drive autonomously on highway portions of their routes. A human driver takes over the surface roads. Burnett estimates that about 33 autonomous Kodiaq trucks are on the road right now for its various customers.
A three-month pilot program with Swedish furniture giant Ikea in Texas recently ended, but Burnett said the relationship is likely to continue, “They’re excited about a long-term commitment with Kodiak and we’re excited about that as well.” Are.”
But Kodiak is moving beyond commercial customers, signing a $50 million deal with the US Department of Defense to develop autonomous robotic military vehicles that can be sent into battle or conduct reconnaissance without humans. Is.
Burnett says this is an opportunity, which squares with Kodiak’s desire to adapt its technologies for different purposes and, in this case, to protect military personnel.
“That’s when we realized we had an opportunity to take the technology we’d developed and apply it to military applications, where instead of sending men and women to the front lines, we could send robots and it would be just as They may not be as capable as they were before, but taking away the human factor and the losses it can cause, we think this is a great application of our technologies,” he said.
It will take a few more years until Kodiak’s robotic vehicle goes into service while a two-year proof of concept of what Burnett calls a “surrogate vehicle” is built and tested.
In fact, Kodiak trucks with their new fifth-generation autonomous platform aren’t in regular service yet, but they’re being road tested. Burnett said he expects to have them in its commercial fleet “very soon”. The unibrow is again being shaved off for good.