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Kodiak Robotics founder explains why autonomous freight could wipe out inflation – londonbusinessblog.com

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If solving the problems of autonomous driving were a question of money, it would have been solved long ago. That’s the main argument from Don Burnette, co-founder and CEO of Kodiak Robotics, an autonomous truck startup, which has expanded its business and hit milestones with a fraction of the money that bigger players like Waymo have.

In the past year, Kodiak has launched commercial pilots and partnerships with Ceva Logistics and US Xpress, two major transportation and logistics companies; began operating two new autonomous freight routes outside of Texas and has raised a $125 million Series B, bringing total funding as of 2018 to $165 million.

As one of the few private automakers on the market, Kodiak lives by the mantra of doing more with less. Last year, Burnette told us that Kodiak could deploy a commercial-scale operation for $500 million. That’s about 10% of what Waymo raised and less than 25% of TuSimple’s IPO.

Kodiak is still pursuing that goal and has now built a reputation for keeping a tight balance and an even stronger focus on chasing self-driving trucks, and nothing but self-driving trucks. Someone else can solve the other autonomy problems.

Someone else can also solve the problems of building sensors and labeling data, according to Burnette, who relies on third parties for such components. In Kodiak’s view, building lidar in-house and spending time and resources tagging data is nothing but an expensive distraction from creating a secure and viable go-to-market strategy.

“I don’t see as much negativity around the markets as I hear publicly, and that gives me some optimism that this market is still exciting and healthy.” Don Burnette, Co-Founder and CEO, Kodiak Robotics

It’s been a year since we last interviewed Burnette for this series, so we agreed on how scrapping HD maps allowed Kodiak to expand to interstate truck lanes faster than competitors; how removable sensor pods help Kodiak scale; and why autonomous freight forwarding may be immune to the current bear market.

Editor’s Note: The following interview, part of an ongoing series featuring founders building transportation companies, has been edited for length and clarity.

londonbusinessblog.com: Autonomous trucking feels like it’s getting more competitive as the industry matures. How does Kodiak differentiate itself?

Nettle: An important part of the story we wanted to tell was the modularity of the system, as it was informed through conversations with partners. Last month we showed how easy it is to replace one of our sensor pods in the field with a non-AV trained technician. (Kodiak’s sensor pods contain one lidar, two radar, and three cameras, and they replace the truck’s stock side mirrors).

The latter was very important to us, because the first question we get when we talk to pretty much everyone in the trucking industry is, “If I have an AV fleet, how do I maintain that fleet?”

We focused on ensuring that the AV platform does not interfere with the existing routine maintenance infrastructure pipeline that exists for these partners. We think this is a unique offering that other people don’t pay attention to, and I think you’ll see a shift to our designs and technologies in the coming years.

Can the sensor pods be placed in any type of truck to make them autonomous?

Correct. We designed it to be very agnostic to the truck provider – we worked on all the big four platforms to make sure this design aligns with all the different providers in a clean and seamless way.

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