A.P.Moller – Maersk (NASDAQ Copenhagen: MAERSK-B) and Kodiak Robotics. Inc announced the launch of the first autonomous trucking lane between Houston and Oklahoma City on Thursday.
The new freight lane is an expansion of the collaboration between the two companies, which started with the first set of autonomous deliveries in November, 2022. Since August, Kodiak has been delivering eight loads per week with a safety driver behind the wheel.
Kodiak and Maersk are conducting a logistical operation that involves making four round trips per week. This operation runs continuously, 24 hours a day, and is carried out over four days each week. The operation entails transporting consumer products loaded onto 53-foot trailers from a facility in Houston to a distribution center in Oklahoma City.
The insights and experiences gained from this ongoing activity are carefully recorded and documented as part of the Kodiak Partner Deployment Program. This program is specifically designed to assist companies in understanding how Kodiak’s self-driving trucks can be seamlessly integrated into their broader logistics strategy and service offerings.
“Teaming with Kodiak enables Maersk to stay at the forefront of innovative solutions,” said Erez Agmoni, Maersk’s global head of innovation – logistics & services.
“Autonomous trucks will play an instrumental role in digitizing the supply chain. We expect self-driving trucks to ultimately become a competitive advantage for Maersk as we execute on our strategy to provide customers with a sustainable, end-to-end logistics solution across air, land and sea.”
According to the American Trucking Association (ATA), the industry is grappling with a shortage of approximately 78,000 truck drivers. Projections made by the ATA indicate that, considering the current demographics of drivers and the anticipated expansion in freight demand, this shortage may potentially surge to exceed 160,000 within the coming decade.
Safety remains a significant challenge within the trucking industry. Research conducted by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) suggests that 94 per cent of accidents result from human error. For Kodiak, prioritizing safety and performance is at the core of its autonomous trucking solution.
How safe are autonomous trucks exactly?
Each vehicle is equipped with a comprehensive array of 18 sensors, encompassing cameras, radar, and lidar, which collectively provide the platform with a full 360-degree view around the truck.
The truck continuously assesses the performance of more than 1,000 safety-critical processes and components in both the self-driving system and the underlying truck platform, doing so every tenth of a second.
These trucks learn in parallel, enabling simultaneous system upgrades across the entire fleet, and they are immune to environmental distractions.
Self-driving trucks offer cost advantages primarily due to their potential to reduce labour expenses. In the traditional trucking industry, a significant portion of operating costs goes toward hiring and compensating truck drivers. Self-driving trucks also eliminates the need for human drivers, which can lead to substantial savings in terms of salaries, benefits and related expenses.
Fallback is a proactive safety feature
Fallback is a critical safety feature in the design of Kodiak’s autonomous trucking system. It represents a predefined set of maneuvers and actions that the Kodiak Driver can execute in the event of unexpected incidents or system failures while the truck is on the road.
These incidents could range from sensor damage caused by road debris to hardware malfunctions within the truck itself. Fallbacks are not reactive but proactive solutions, ensuring that the autonomous system knows precisely what to do even before a problem arises.
The key to Kodiak’s fallback system is its integration into the core architecture of the autonomous driving technology. It is designed from the inception of the system, making it an integral part of the planner and controller components.
This approach allows the Kodiak Driver to not only achieve a fallback in various challenging scenarios but also to determine when a fallback is necessary. Continuous health monitoring of components, including truck platform health, hardware status and autonomy software health, ensures that the system can swiftly detect faults and transition from the nominal trajectory to the fallback trajectory, bringing the truck to a safe stop.
Testing and validation of fallback functionality are essential components of Kodiak’s development process. Kodiak uses large-scale simulations and track testing to assess the system’s ability to perform fallbacks under various conditions, including emergency scenarios that might rarely occur on the road. This thorough approach ensures the Kodiak Driver’s competence in executing fallbacks, contributing to the overall safety and reliability of autonomous trucking technology.
Shares of A.P.Moller – Maersk rose 1.66 per cent to 13,200 DKK on the Copenhagen NASDAQ exchange.