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Kodiak Robotics makes autonomous pickup for military

Autonomous truck developer fits its robotic driving system for military use

Kodiak Robotics adapted its autonomous driving system to a Ford F-150 pickup for military use. (Photo: Kodiak Robotics)

Kodiak Robotics delivered a prototype of an autonomously equipped Ford F-150 pickup to the U.S. military, showing it can adapt its robotic driving system to a light-duty vehicle as well as a heavy-duty truck.

The F-150 upfitted with the Kodiak Driver contains both the autonomy hardware and software required to operate a military ground vehicle. The vehicle is designed to handle complex military environments, diverse operational conditions and operate in areas where GPS is sketchy. 

The vehicle designed to handle off-road variables like rocks, dust, mud and water also operates with remote controls when necessary.

“Kodiak’s new autonomous vehicle shows the maturity and portability of our autonomous system,” Don Burnette, Kodiak founder and CEO, said in a news release. “We have built a comprehensive autonomous system that can be integrated into any vehicle, from a Class 8 truck, to a pickup, to a next-generation defense vehicle.” 

To date, RRAI has developed most of the autonomous-driving technology used by the military in follow-the-leader applications as part of the Army’s Defense Innovation Unit goal of developing demonstrator prototype autonomous ground vehicles.

Dual-use technology

The dual-use potential of Kodiak’s autonomous technology attracted a contract valued at up to $50 million from the U.S. Department of Defense in December 2022.

The integration of the Kodiak Driver into the light-duty F-150, the nation’s bestselling pickup truck, took less than six months.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin listens to a representative from drone company Skydio who attended a presentation of Kodiak Robotics’ autonomous driving system on a Ford F-150 pickup adapted for military use. (Photo: Kodiak Robotics)

The versatility of Kodiak’s modular and vehicle-agnostic autonomous system helped the speed of the project. The vehicle runs the same software as Kodiak’s autonomous long-haul trucks and features Kodiak DefensePods, an adapted version of Kodiak’s modular, swappable SensorPods.

A technician can swap out a DefensePod in the field in 10 minutes or less. No specialized training is required.

Purpose-built ground reconnaissance

Kodiak will build and deliver two off-road-capable vehicles based on the Ford F-150. Testing began at a military base in November. Once testing is complete, Kodiak plans to put its autonomous system into a purpose-built ground reconnaissance vehicle for military use.

Before testing the F-150 vehicles, Kodiak used its semi-trucks to test its autonomous system in off-road environments, which helped improve its on-road long-haul trucking technology by learning how to deal with dust, rocks and other small obstacles.

“Dual use is the key,” Burnette told FreightWaves. “Finding applications of technology that can apply to military use simultaneously with civilian and commercial use cases is the future. That’s where the efficiency is. That’s where the iteration is.”

Kodiak plans to launch driverless semi-trucks in Texas in late 2024. It has been covering more than 70,000 miles a month in driver-monitored trucks.

Related article:

Kodiak Robotics gets $49.9M Army contract for off-road autonomy 

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Alan Adler.

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Alan Adler

Alan Adler is an award-winning journalist who worked for The Associated Press and the Detroit Free Press. He also spent two decades in domestic and international media relations and executive communications with General Motors.