April 18, 2023
Autonomous trucking company Kodiak Robotics has unveiled a new, more advanced, fifth-generation version of its self-driving technology.
According to the firm, based in Mountain View, California, the upgrades to its hardware platform bring both improvements in functionality and cosmetic appearance.
The most significant change is the removal of the roof-mounted center pod sensor suite, and the relocation of the front-facing lidar and cameras to Kodiak’s proprietary SensorPods mounted on the sideview mirrors.
This has the effect of losing what has become known as the “unibrow” look in the autonomous trucking industry, which has divided opinion. But it is also claimed to bring about benefits in performance, too.
Kodiak says that the relocation of the sensors will mean faster upfitting and make them easier to maintain – with repairs carried out in as little as 10 minutes – because accessing the roof is no longer required. This, in turn, will help deliver more cost-effective integration into trucks.
They are also said to offer better perception capability; it’s claimed that the Luminar Iris lidar sensors can now deliver double the coverage to the Kodiak Driver automated driving system at long range.
The company points out there are safety benefits, too, with the sensors – which are now at the same height as a human driver, which is considered the optimum level – offering a dual vantage point, providing redundancy and visibility on both sides of the cab.
In relocating the sensors, Kodiak took the opportunity to add to the suite, with an extra front-facing lidar and three new cameras, two of which were added to the hood-mounted mirrors to cover blind spots. The sensor tally has now increased from 14 to 18.
And in tandem with increased GPU processing power – up 130 % on the new tech – Kodiak has, according to CEO Don Burnett, created a more convincing proposition for customers.
“We took a platform that our customers already love and made it better by adding more visibility, more power, and more flexibility, ultimately moving us closer down the path towards driverless deployment,” Burnett said.
“By removing the sensors from the top of the truck and incorporating them at a human driver’s line of sight, we have designed a system for the real world.”
Kodiak has teamed with several partners for autonomous trucking pilots over the past year, including IKEA, US Xpress and 10 Roads Express. The company delivers freight for its customers along six routes in Texas, Oklahoma and the Southeast, operating autonomously on the highway portions of the routes.
Last December, the company announced it had secured a $50 million deal to develop software for off-road robotic vehicles to be used by the U.S. Army.
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