Kodiak Robotics was founded in April and just raised $40 million in series A funding. CRV, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Battery Ventures, and Tusk Ventures are some of the backers. Currently, the company has about 10 employees and will use the funds to grow the team and for product development.
Co-founder Don Burnette left Google’s self-driving project to start up Otto, which was acquired by Uber. He left Otto to found Kodiak because he wanted to focus on trucking, “It was no secret that Uber was primarily focused on the car project and 80 to 90 percent of my time was focused on the car project. But I still felt that trucking was the killer app for self-driving. I still believe that. I wanted to focus 100 percent of my time on trucking,” he said.
The company’s technical approach reportedly will be one of fusing various technologies like light detection, LiDAR, cameras, radar and sonar. “We believe self-driving trucks will likely be the first autonomous vehicles to support a viable business model, and we are proud to have the support of such high-profile investors to help us execute on our plan,” explained Burnette.
One issue in the US trucking industry is a shortage of about 50,000 drivers. Another is health problems truckers frequently have, “The research revealed that over two-thirds of respondents were obese (69%), as defined by a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher, and 17% were morbidly obese (BMI of 40 or higher). In comparison, only one-third of U.S. working adults were reported to be obese and 7% morbidly obese.”
The health problems seem to be mostly cultural though, meaning they could changed without the use of technology.
If safe, effective self-driving freight trucks can be developed to replace human drivers, the trucking industry could save hundreds of billions of dollars. If technology could replace drivers, what will they do to survive?
Tesla is developing an all-electric semi truck with autopilot capabilities, but it seems the idea is that the technology will enhance driver safety, not immediately completely replace humans.
Image Credit: Ky MacPherson, Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0
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