Kodiak Robotics unveils next-generation autonomous truck

Kodiak Robotics, Inc., an autonomous trucking company, announced its fourth-generation autonomous truck that features Luminar’s Iris LiDAR, ZF Full Range Radar, Hesai 360-degree scanning LiDARs for side- and rear-view detection, Cummins X15 Series engines, Bridgestone Americas smart-sensing tire technology, and the NVIDIA DRIVE platform. The fourth-generation trucks are expected on the road in the fourth quarter of 2021.

Kodiak’s fourth-generation truck features a modular and discreet sensor suite in just three locations: a slim profile “center pod” on the front roofline of the truck, and pods integrated into both of the side mirrors. This well-integrated and low-profile sensor placement vastly simplifies sensor installation and maintenance and increases safety. The new generation of Kodiak self-driving trucks will improve the robustness of the autonomous system. It was designed with greater fleet uptime, manufacturing, and serviceability in mind–all of which are critical to scale quickly, safely, and efficiently.

“Complex and bulky systems that require an engineer to hand-build and hand-tune are expensive, unreliable, and difficult to debug,” said Don Burnette, co-founder, and CEO of Kodiak Robotics. “We believe that reliability and scalability flow from simplicity, and the best hardware modifications should be barely visible. Our fourth-generation platform is designed for simple, scaled production which means easy calibration, troubleshooting and maintenance for our partners.”

Industry-leading perception system

Kodiak’s perception system, Kodiak Vision, takes the unique approach of considering every sensor–including LiDAR, camera and radar–primary. Kodiak Vision fuses together the information from the sensors and considers the relative strengths and weaknesses of each type. This incorporates extra redundancies and cross-validates data, adding another layer of safety to the self-driving system.

Kodiak’s improves performance and reliability by incorporating the ZF Full Range Radar and Luminar’s long-range Iris LiDAR. These sensor integrations, combined with Kodiak’s previously-announced integration with Hesai 360-degree scanning LiDARs, for side- and rear-view detection, provide the necessary automotive-grade reliability needed for long-haul trucks. All three sensors are purpose-built to meet the needs of autonomous trucks, which need to “see” long-range in a wide variety of weather conditions to safely operate at highway speeds.

The ZF Full Range Radar provides revolutionary four-dimensional (4D) capabilities, measuring the distance, height, lateral angle, and velocity of an object out to 300+ meters. This contrasts with traditional radar, which cannot measure the vertical position of an object, effectively viewing the world from the top and down like a map. 4D radar is critical for autonomous trucks because it allows the system to distinguish overhead objects–such as road signs and bridges–from road hazards like stopped vehicles under a bridge or an overhead sign.

Luminar’s new automotive-grade Iris LiDAR’s wide horizontal and vertical field of view enables Kodiak trucks to recognize objects both near and far, adding further redundancy for long-range detections up to 600 meters. The high resolution and range allows the system to reliably “see” objects such as pedestrians and motorcycles. The LiDAR’s slim design has a profile of just 10 centimeters, so it seamlessly integrates into Kodiak Robotics’ discreet center roof pod in the front of the truck.

Kodiak Robotics’ patent-pending mirror pods–which will start with one Hesai LiDAR, two long-range 4D radars, and three cameras–don’t require specialized sensor calibration for easy upfit and repair. Rather than replacing a sensor in need of maintenance, a mechanic can simply replace the mirror pod in a matter of minutes. This single point of integration will allow maintenance and serviceability at scale.

Bringing hardware and software together for autonomous trucking

Kodiak has placed an order for an additional 15 PACCAR trucks that will be delivered over the next year. The trucks will more than double the company’s fleet size and help Kodiak expand its growing business delivering freight for commercial customers in Texas and beyond. Over the next couple years, the company plans to expand throughout the southern half of the United States into other freight-rich corridors.

Under the hood, Kodiak’s fourth-generation trucks will be powered by Cummins X15TMSeries engines. These engines feature the Cummins ADS Powertrain interface, an industry-leading control interface allowing the autonomous system to communicate with the engine safely, reliably and securely. In addition, the 2021 X15 engines meet EPA and Greenhouse Gas Phase 2 requirements, providing a fuel economy improvement over previous generation engines and further enhancing the environmental benefits of Kodiak autonomous trucks.

Kodiak trucks run exclusively on Bridgestone tires, and will be equipped with Bridgestone cloud-connected sensors that capture critical tire-centric data. That data will be analyzed and processed into live actionable insights, increasing uptime, improving overall safety, and enhancing the operational efficiency of Kodiak’s automated systems.

Kodiak will feature NVIDIA DRIVE Orin as the supercomputing platform, once available. With more than 250 TOPS (trillion operations per second) of compute performance, DRIVE Orin is architected for safety and addresses systematic safety standards such as ISO 26262 ASIL-D. In the interim, Kodiak will use the current generation NVIDIA DRIVE AGX Pegasus to process the data from the cameras, allowing the autonomous system to perceive the surrounding environment.

To deploy commercially, a self-driving vehicle platform must achieve:

  • Performance: the vehicle’s sensors must provide high-resolution measurements to the software stack, the vehicle’s on-board compute must be able to process sensor measurements, and the vehicle’s controls must be able to smoothly actuate the vehicle, at all times
  • Stability: the vehicle must be able to continue operating, despite the inevitable bumps in the road
  • Reliability: the vehicle must be able to drive for tens of thousands of miles without breakdown
  • Scalability: the vehicle platform must be scalable, from a handful of prototypes to thousands
  • Safety: the vehicle must demonstrate its ability to navigate roadways with verifiable intention and integrity

Earlier this year, the company announced a contract with the United States Air Force to develop autonomous airbase vehicles. Additionally, Kodiak recently announced investments from BMW i Ventures and Bridgestone Americas as well as a collaboration with Bridgestone regarding smart tire sensing technologies. Kodiak aims to build the world’s most efficient, reliable, and respected end-to-end delivery solution and has already begun driverless testing of its autonomous system.