What Happens When a Self-Driving Truck Suffers a Blowout?
A powerful new video dramatically illustrates the potential safety benefits of autonomous driving technology.
The video, released by California-based self-driving trucking company Kodiak Robotics, demonstrates what happens when a self-driving Class 8 truck – a vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 33,000 pounds – suffers a potentially damaging tire blowout.
The truck is fitted with the Kodiak Driver, the company’s purpose-built technology stack, which makes use of lidar, radar and cameras, combined with mapping, to deliver self-driving functionality.
The video, shot at Kodiak’s proving ground in West Texas, shows the truck – which although driving itself, has a safety operator in the cabin –rolling over a test rig which punctures the front driver-side tire. Despite the fact the tire is destroyed, the autonomous tech ensures the vehicle does not lose control and safely comes to a stop while remaining in its lane.
According to Kodiak, tire blowouts are among the most significant safety scares a truck can typically face. Under normal circumstances, when a vehicle is being piloted by a human driver, a blowout can cause loss of control and potentially even put it at risk of jack-knifing.
However, the company claims that one of the most prominent safety benefits the Kodiak Driver brings is to “instantly react to the change in vehicle dynamics.” In the case of a blowout, this is done by the truck applying a different steering angle.
And the video is not just a one-off. Kodiak says the test has been conducted on multiple occasions, and the truck has demonstrated its ability to consistently come to a halt in a controlled fashion, implementing its “fallback protocol.” This ensures quick detection of the problem, ensures the safety of other drivers, and also sees the hazard lights turned on.
In a real-world scenario – rather than the setting of the proving ground – the truck would come to a stop by the side of the road.
“We can’t control the hazards trucks will face on the open road, but we can control how the trucks behave when a critical situation occurs,” said Kodiak Robotics founder and CEO Don Burnette. “By demonstrating that the Kodiak Driver can maintain complete control under such duress, we’re showing the world just how safe this technology is designed to be.”
Kodiak has expanded its self-driving operations in recent months, announcing partnerships with IKEA and US Xpress. It delivers freight daily for customers along four routes in Texas and Oklahoma, operating autonomously on the highway portions of the routes.