• November 30, 2022

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It’s one of those situations where one might wince while predicting, “oh, this can’t end up well.” To demonstrate the effectiveness of its Kodiak Driver autonomous technology in self-driving commercial trucks, Kodiak Robotics decided to see what would happen in the event of a tire blowout.

It’s an important issue since commercial trucks are vulnerable to tire blowouts which can lead to accidents due to long drives, heavy weight and heat buildup according to a federal report.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company recently set up a test at a West Texas proving grounds where a Kodiak self-driving truck’s Class 8 tractor pulling a trailer ran over a test rig puncturing the front, driver-side tire during autonomous operation. Bottom line, the tire blew and the truck stopped and that was that. You can see the entire test in the video below.

“People ask us all the time ‘what happens if you blow a tire,’ and we wanted to showcase how the Kodiak Driver can maintain control more precisely than a traditional truck, even with a completely destroyed tire,” said Don Burnette, Founder and CEO, Kodiak Robotics in a statement. “We can’t control the hazards trucks will face on the open road, but we can control how the trucks behave when a critical situation occurs. By demonstrating that the Kodiak Driver can maintain complete control under such duress, we’re showing the world just how safe this technology is designed to be.”

The secret sauce behind the success of the test is what the company calls its “Fallback” technology. Working in conjunction with Kodiak Driver Fallback would normally guide the truck to a safe stop in the event of a catastrophic failure, such as a tire blowout.

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“There’s over 1,000 metrics the truck is constantly monitoring many times per second. If anything becomes abnormal, if there’s any diagnostic that triggers then the Fallback kicks in and is safely able to bring the truck to a safe stop on the side of the road then that system can ask for help remotely from our remote operations,” Burnette told Forbes.com when Fallback was introduced last May.

In the case of this tire blowout test, Fallback triggered the hazard lights to turn on, and brought the truck to a stop within the lane. If a tire were to blow in a real-world setting, the truck would automatically execute its fallback plan, typically pulling it to a safe stop on the side of the road, according to Kodiak.

Founded in 2018, Kodiak is in a period of rapid expansion, broadening its coverage area, mainly in the U.S. Southeast. Since mid-2019 Kodiak has been delivering freight between Dallas, Texas and Houston and between Dallas and San Antonio since 2021.

Last March CEVA Logistics announced it partnered with Kodiak to deliver freight autonomously to Austin, Texas and Oklahoma City from the Dallas-Fort Worth area. In April Kodiak announced a deal with U.S. Xpress for autonomous freight deliveries from Dallas-Fort Worth to Atlanta, Ga.

Just this past August Kodiak and the nation’s largest travel center operator Pilot Companies announced a “strategic agreement” to develop services for self-driving trucks at Pilot and Flying J travel centers. The first such truckport to be built at a Pilot center near Atlanta.

That same month Kodiak began a three-month pilot program making a daily run from an IKEA Furniture distribution center in Baytown, Texas, near Houston to an IKEA retail store almost 300 miles away in Frisco, north of Dallas.

While on the highway portions of their routes Kodiak trucks operate autonomously. A driver takes over on surface streets and when a situation makes it necessary.

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