Autonomous trucking startup Ike links with three major firms

SAN FRANCISCO – Ike, a two-year-old autonomous trucking firm, signed partnerships with three major trucking firms to deploy self-driving technology, according to the company.

Ink has joined with Ryder Systems, DHL, and NFI to deploy autonomous technology.

“The customers we are announcing today, Ryder, DHL, and NFI, have spent decades building massive logistics networks that support our economy. Their fleets of trucks and their many other products and services move everything we use across the United States every day,” the company said in a statement. “They are also early adopters of new technologies and have invested heavily in digital tools, electrification, and automation in many parts of their businesses.”

The “Powered by Ike” program will operate as a subscription service that allows customers to purchase OEM trucks with automated driving technology already installed. Customers then pay a yearly subscription fee for access to various support services.

Ike says they will employ a “handoff model” when utilizing their highly automated truck technology, meaning that trucks will drive themselves on interstates and highways, after which they’ll be handed off to a professional driver who will be responsible for driving them to their final destination.

The company says the handoff model “creates new opportunities for truck drivers to use their skills and expertise where it matters most, while increasing fleet utilization to help Ike’s customers improve their operating margins.”

“The industry is experiencing major disruption with ever-escalating consumer and business demands, regulatory and safety pressures, growth of e-commerce, as well as the rise of the sharing economy,” Karen Jones, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Ryder told CDL Life. “We are at the forefront of identifying new technology and fleet advancements, while acting as an extended research and development arm for our customers. Working with an automation technology leader such as Ike is a continuation of this journey.”

DHL President Jim Monkmeyer likes Ike’s autonomous solution.

“No industry has gained more prominence in the COVID-19 pandemic than logistics, with millions stuck at home sheltering-in-place and relying on delivery of food, medical supplies, and other essential items,” Monkmeyer told CDL Life. “Ike’s automation solution is an excellent fit for DHL Supply Chain’s accelerated digitalization approach, and will allow us to continue making our customers’ supply chains more secure, flexible, and robust to handle future challenges like the one we have all faced in 2020.”

Ike Brown, NFI president, said Ike’s innovation was a draw.

“Our approach to innovation and the people that deliver our solutions are key to the customer value that NFI delivers,” Brown told CDL Life. “We are excited to add automated trucking technology to our growing innovation portfolio and accelerate the supply chain industry, similar to what we have been able to do with our early adoption of electric vehicles.”

Ike’s leadership group comes from Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group where co-founders Alden Woodrow, Nancy Sun and Jur van den Berg held key positions.

Woodrow was the product lead for self-driving trucks at Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group and Sun was the engineering lead. Ike’s chief technology officer, van den Berg, was a senior staff engineer for Uber.

“We’re building a company focused very much on the long-term,” co-founder and CEO Alden Woodrow said in a statement. “In autonomous vehicles, there is this tendency to really rush to try to get a product built. We are trying to bring some patience and some maturity to this problem, in large part because this is a safety-critical technology.

“The trucks that Ike powers will be driving alongside many other people on the road, and we need to make sure they can do that safely and reliably.”

The company’s name is a tribute to President Dwight Eisenhower, who signed the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, enabling the construction of the Interstate Highway System. The company will develop technology strictly for highway driving.

Ike established a software licensing partnership with Nuro, which is developing a self-driving local commerce delivery vehicle.

The Nuro software uses lidar sensor data to build a comprehensive image of a vehicle’s surroundings — a crucial part of functional autonomous driving. The partnership has sped up Ike’s development stage by about two years, according to Woodrow.

“It’s going to allow us to focus on the harder problems now, instead of having to spend all this time solving computer science problems that have already been solved by Nuro,” he said.