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Kodiak Robotics lays off 20% of its staff

Image: Kodiak Robotics

Kodiak Robotics, the Mountain View, California-based autonomous trucking company, has laid off about 20% of its staff, The Information reported Thursday, raising new questions about the ability of autonomous trucking startups to follow through on the promise of getting self-driving big rigs on the road.

“Like many both in our industry and beyond it, we made the difficult decision to reduce our headcount in light of the dramatic impact of COVID-19,” Kodiak said in an emailed statement to FreightWaves. “While this is not a decision anyone ever wants to make, we’re confident this is the right way to position Kodiak for the future.”

Kodiak was founded in 2018 by Don Burnette, whose previous experience in the self-driving space includes co-founding Otto, the autonomous trucking company that Uber acquired in 2016 then shut down two years later.

The company has carved out a niche in the self-driving space with a hybrid model that combines technological innovation with a carrier service offering autonomous trucks driving on “middle-mile” highway routes.

Kodiak  grew from 15 to 85 employees in 2019, Burnette told FreightWaves several months ago, and was shipping freight for a commercial customer in Texas.

The layoffs come one month after a startup with a similar business model, Starsky Robotics, announced it was shuttering operations after failing to raise additional funds from investors.

One Comment

  1. Dave

    This is the first of many. My guess is 90% or more of the autonomous truck guys will fail completely. This “tech” is so far off in the future it’s a joke. And, for the next 10 yrs years drivers will be so available and cheap it won’t be funny as they try to feed their families and drive almost anything for any rate. And, oil prices are down 80% already in the last year and some say 50% more to go from here. Those two alone make “traditional” trucks and driving much cheaper to operate and pushes the need for auto trucks mudh further out.

    I feel for these guys and everyone else getting let go (half my friends and family too). Everyone is just going through round ONE of layoffs in the hope things are better by summer. If not, round 2 will be a lot lot worse. Buckle up.

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Linda Baker, Senior Environment and Technology Reporter

Linda Baker is a FreightWaves senior reporter based in Portland, Oregon. Her beat includes autonomous vehicles, the startup scene, clean trucking, and emissions regulations. Please send tips and story ideas to [email protected]