The potential benefits of autonomous vehicles in the freight industry is leading to global partnerships to tackle the challenges of development, testing, and commercialization. Last week, Kodiak Robotics Inc. announced that it has partnered with SK Inc. to bring the Kodiak Driver self-driving technology to Asia-Pacific markets. As part of the relationship, SK said it will work with Kodiak to find business opportunities for autonomous trucks and to provide fleet management services for customers in Asia.
Seoul-based SK Inc. is an investment-oriented holding company of SK Group, which claims to be the third-largest congolmerate in South Korea, with more than 120 operating companies. It has developed strategies with global affiliates in logistics and services, energy and chemicals, information and communications technologies, semiconductor and materials, and biological and pharmaceuticals sectors.
“Our partnership with Kodiak will help accelerate the commercialization of self-driving trucks in Asia,” said Jungho Shin, executive vice president of SK Inc. “Kodiak's industry-leading technology and SK's unrivaled reach in Korea and across Asia make this a natural partnership. We look forward to working with Kodiak to make autonomous trucking a reality around the globe.”
Founded in 2018, Kodiak Robotics said it has designed and operated self-driving trucks to operate on highway routes, making the freight industry safer and more efficient. The Mountain View, Calif.-based company has designed its technology stack specifically for long-haul trucks. Kodiak delivers freight for customers between Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston, operating autonomously on the highway portion of the route.
Kodiak has been serving paying customers in Texas. Source: Kodiak Robotics
Kodiak to use SK components
Kodiak said it is already earning revenue while it validates its system by hauling freight daily in Texas. The company said it “aims to build the world's most efficient, reliable, and respected end-to-end delivery solution.”
In January 2021, Kodiak said it was the first company in the autonomous trucking industry to announce disengagement-free customer deliveries, and it released footage of more than 1,000 miles of disengagement-free driving (see below).
In April, Kodiak announced that the U.S. Department of Defense had awarded it an AFWERX Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract to develop autonomous vehicles for the Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
SK said its network of companies “has deep roots in numerous industries critical to the future of logistics, from trucking telematics to shipping to semiconductors.” Kodiak plans to use SK's products, components, and technology for its autonomous system, including artificial intelligence microprocessors and advanced emergency braking systems.
In addition, Asia represents a $1.5 trillion freight market, making the partnership a key opportunity for Kodiak to grow its international operations.
“SK has an impressive list of companies that enables and fastracks our Asian expansion,” stated Don Burnette, co-founder and CEO of Kodiak. “Our technology paired with SK's deep relationships with Asia's leading logistics and technology partners offers Kodiak a unique opportunity to expand our global footprint and commercialize the Kodiak Driver across the Asia-Pacific region.”
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