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Kodiak Robotics CEO on advanced self-driving technology

‘We are going to take the driver out when it is safe to do so’

Photo: (FreightWaves)

This fireside chat recap is from FreightWaves’ second Autonomous and Electric Vehicles Summit, which took place Wednesday.

FIRESIDE CHAT TOPIC: Building the trucking industry’s most advanced self-driving technology.

DETAILS: There is talk about electric and autonomous trucks individually, but what about having both in one vehicle? Kodiak Technologies focuses on autonomy, but hopes to one day, with the help of professionals on the electric side of the industry, combine these two ideas into an efficient, and most importantly safe, way to revolutionize transportation.

SPEAKER: Don Burnette is the co-founder and CEO of Kodiak Robotics.

BIO: Burnette has more than 10 years of experience working on self-driving software development. He began his career as a software tech lead for the Google self-driving car project, the predecessor to Waymo. After more than five years at Google, Burnette left the company to co-found Otto, the first self-driving truck startup, which was acquired by Uber.


“From a technology standpoint, we are further along than most people realize. This is one of the things that we are trying to get people to understand is that the trucks are incredibly capable today, they can handle just about all of the driving tasks that you would expect a truck or vehicle to have to handle out there on the roadways. This is why we have now turned our attention to maintenance and sustainability.”

“We are very much platform agnostic. Our intelligence doesn’t care whether it is in a combustion engine, diesel engine, fuel cell or battery electric; we can operate in all of those modalities on all of those different platforms. Of course now we have to actually put up and demonstrate that technology, but we talk to a lot of the manufacturers that are on the forefront of this technology and we are very excited about the direction that the industry is going and we are excited to showcase how autonomous and electrification can come together and really push us into the future of transportation.”

“We are going to take the driver out when it is safe to do so. I do think that it is coming in the next few years, but it is really hard to pinpoint exactly when it will happen. But look, we are at a point in development which is all about validation and functional safety analysis to prove that the system is safe. We recently announced our fallback system, which demonstrated that our truck is monitoring over 1,000 diagnostics, and if anything goes out of range or trips, then the truck can safely pull over to the side of the road, come to a safe stop, ask for help and report the problem.”

Corey Smith

Corey is a staff writer for FreightWaves with experience in air, intermodal and parcel operations, as well as LTL and full truckload transportation management. He is a graduate of the University of Memphis, majoring in supply chain management, and enjoys basketball, cinema and traveling.