While most autonomous truck trials have been in the southern and western U.S., they are beginning to expand. Kodiak Robotics Inc. today said it has partnered with U.S. Xpress Enterprises Inc. to launch autonomous freight service between Dallas-Fort Worth and Atlanta. U.S. Xpress' trucks will use Kodiak's autonomy technology.
Founded in 2018, Kodiak Robotics said it has designed its technology stack specifically to make long-haul trucks safer and more efficient. The Mountain View, Calif.-based company added that its sensors are integrated into a streamlined pod optimized for perception, scalability, and maintainability.
Kodiak delivers freight daily for customers along four routes in Texas and Oklahoma, operating autonomously on the highway portions of the routes. The company raised $125 million in Series B funding in November 2021.
U.S. Xpress first member of Kodiak’s Partner Program
Chattanooga, Tenn.-based U.S. Xpress will become the first cornerstone truckload partner in Kodiak's Partner Deployment Program, working closely with the company to deploy SAE Level 4 self-driving technology, said Kodiak Robotics.
“Our partnership with U.S. Xpress marks our service expansion to the East Coast,” said Don Burnette, founder and CEO of Kodiak. “We believe it is the furthest east any company has delivered multiple loads using autonomous technology.”
“Having the capacity to sustain 24/7 operations across the more than 750 miles between Dallas and Atlanta — two of our nation's busiest freight hubs — represents a giant step forward for Kodiak, and for the AV trucking industry as a whole,” he added. “We chose to make U.S. Xpress a cornerstone partner in our Partner Deployment Program because we see U.S. Xpress and its Variant division as ideal long-term partners for the deployment and scaling of our autonomous long-haul solution.”
Partners began autonomous hauling last month
A Kodiak truck and U.S. Xpress trailers completed a freight four round-trips in eight segments totaling approximately 6,350 miles. They delivered eight commercial loads between Dallas and Atlanta in late March.
The truck ran 24 hours a day for 131 total hours, or nearly five-and-a-half full days, according to Kodiak.
The results represent a more than 100% increase in utilization compared with a traditional truck and professional driver with 11 hours of service limit, the company said.
By increasing the number of hours a truck can be used per day to more than 20 hours, autonomous trucks will allow carriers to haul more freight with fewer trucks, increasing revenue while decreasing costs, the company said.
As part of this partnership, a Kodiak autonomous tractor picked up and delivered U.S. Xpress pre-loaded trailers. A rotating team of four professional Kodiak safety drivers oversaw the autonomous system.
“This pilot demonstrated to our operations teams and our customers the benefits that can come with autonomous technology,” said Eric Fuller, president and CEO of U.S. Xpress.
“We fundamentally believe that Kodiak's autonomous technology will allow us to scale our fleet while increasing truck utilization compared to a human-driven truck,” he said. “Our strategic partnership is helping both of our teams identify ways to quickly integrate and scale autonomous technology into our fleet once it is commercially available.”
Dallas-to-Atlanta route ideal for automation
The route between Dallas and Atlanta is a perfect entry point for continuous autonomous operations because it's slightly longer than what a driver is permitted to operate in a day but is too short to economically run as a team, said the companies.
Kodiak will continue to haul freight with U.S. Xpress between Dallas and Atlanta, as well as other lanes within the Kodiak network.
By servicing lanes often deemed less desirable by professional truck drivers, autonomous trucks complement human drivers allowing them to focus on routes which can provide a more consistent schedule and predictable paycheck.
In addition to Dallas to Atlanta, Kodiak has been delivering freight daily on the 240-mile lane from Dallas to Houston since mid-2019, and on the 280-mile lane between Dallas and San Antonio since mid-2021.
The company uses its proprietary lightweight mapping system to rapidly and safely add new lanes, including February's launch of commercial operations with CEVA Logistics between Dallas and Oklahoma City.