A giant step forward in delivering the performance, reliability, and serviceability Kodiak needs for driverless deployment.
As Kodiak’s Head of Hardware, I’m thrilled to introduce the Kodiak Driver’s fourth-generation (Gen4) truck platform. Gen4 represents the culmination of all of our hard work and achievements since our founding in 2018, as well as decades of collective experience in the industry. It is the result of close collaboration between our hardware, systems engineering, and operations teams, as well as deep partnership with our industry-leading partner ecosystem.
For Kodiak, and for the self-driving industry, our Gen4 platform represents a giant step forward in delivering the performance, reliability, and serviceability requirements we need to launch our solution at scale to meet the needs of our customers and partners.
Working with the best partners in the industry to maximize performance
Kodiak’s Gen4 truck reflects all we’ve learned working with our partners. Our hardware choices are not based on specs sheets, but on careful analysis, simulation, and on-road performance data. Our Gen4 truck integrates an optimized suite of technology that has proven itself truck-ready across our operational design domain, the driving environment in which our trucks operate. It also reflects our deep partnerships with some of the industry’s leading technology providers, including Luminar, ZF, Hesai, Cummins, Bridgestone Americas, NVIDIA, and more.
Both our simulation program and our on-road freight deliveries played a key role in helping us select our Gen4 perception sensor suite. Simulation allowed us to understand sensors’ performance requirements for critical metrics such as range, acuity, and field of view, while our real-world testing program allowed us to validate those sensor requirements on our partners’ actual hardware. Additionally, we were able to choose our Gen4 sensor partners not only based on classic perception parameters such as precision and recall, but also to maximize performance in critical regions-of-interest, as determined from real-world testing.
The decisions available to the Kodiak Driver in any particular on-road scenario are defined by a very truck-specific set of vehicle dynamics and constraints. Using truck-specific metrics is particularly important because what matters to cars and trucks isn’t always the same: in particular, for 80,000 pound trucks driving at highway speeds, we need to see long-range in a wide variety of weather and road conditions. As we discussed here, those unique perception needs are part of why we’re so excited to team up with ZF Group to help test and deploy their groundbreaking ZF Full-Range Radar technology: it will play a key role in enhancing the Kodiak Driver’s long-range perception capabilities, particularly in inclement weather.
Watch how our Gen4 platform is helping Kodiak shape a sharper vision for trucking.
Building for real-world reliability
Trucks are designed to operate for hundreds of thousands of miles and in the harshest of conditions; it should come as no surprise that self-driving trucks must also meet this same reliability bar. Over the last two years, we have driven hundreds of thousands of miles on constantly-changing highways day and night, rain or shine, in the Texas heat or in the cold. I can tell you from experience that this environment will quickly expose any design weaknesses in the Kodiak Driver’s hardware.
With Gen4, we deliberately avoided utilizing experimental technologies, or those that are difficult to harden in the harsh trucking environment. Every piece of technology on our Gen4 platform has undergone rigorous testing, both by our partners and by Kodiak’s hardware team. This testing allows us to optimize and isolate mechanical structures to limited thermal shock and wear. Additionally, we rely on a proven and truck-focused sensor suite to limit overall system complexity.
Planning for deployment
Today, Kodiak moves goods for partners using our own fleet. In the long-run, we plan to offer the Kodiak Driver to customers who want to integrate our technology into their own fleets. Once we’ve deployed our trucks on partner fleets across the United States, we can’t depend on having specially-trained Kodiak engineers close-by in case a sensor component needs to be diagnosed, repaired, or recalibrated. Maintaining such a large fleet in such a large geography is more than a technology problem, it’s an operational problem.
To meet that challenge, we’ve built our Gen4 truck to be modular, with the majority of our technology contained in custom-designed, side-mounted mirror pods. As we have shared in the past, mirror-pods are great locations for sensor mounting: they are low-vibration, and maximize rear-facing sightlines. But they also offer numerous serviceability advantages. Kodiak’s mirror-pods are designed to be quickly and easily swapped out by repair technicians, without specialized training. This avoids us having to access the roof of the vehicle structure with ladders and specialized tools during a heat wave in Arizona or a hail-storm in Texas.
As you can see, every component of our Gen4 hardware has been designed deliberately to be thoughtfully integrated and minimally-visible. This isn’t just a matter of styling (though looking cool is always nice). We believe that reliability and scalability flow from simplicity: the best hardware modifications should look and feel as if they have been part of the truck the whole time. In contrast, complex systems are difficult to debug, difficult to prove safe, and generally unreliable in the harsh environment of trucking.
Building this kind of simplicity may seem, well, simple, but it’s not. It’s always easier to build something complex and clunky than something minimal. Gen4 didn’t come out of nowhere — it reflects everything we’ve learned over the last three plus years of work preparing an autonomous truck for deployment. We’re excited to deliver goods with our Gen4 trucks this fall, and can’t wait to start building out our fleet as we begin this next phase of our journey here at Kodiak.
Safe and sound journeys!