Jun 29, 2023
Kodiak, Drivewyze Testing System For Robotrucks To Bypass Weigh Stations
Kodiak Robotics is testing a system for its autonomous commerical trucks to bypass highway weigh ... [+] stations. There's a line in the classic Little Feat song “Willin'” where a cross-country
Kodiak Robotics is testing a system for its autonomous commerical trucks to bypass highway weigh ... [+] stations.
There's a line in the classic Little Feat song “Willin'” where a cross-country trucker reveals he’s “driven the back roads so I wouldn't get weighed.” After all, having to stop at a weigh station is a drag for truck drivers trying to make time and carrying sometimes too-heavy loads.
But what if a truck has no driver and is limited to traveling on interstate highways where it can't avoid weigh stations? If a pilot program now underway in Texas is a success, autonomous commercial trucks may one day be allowed to whiz by those weigh stations.
Kodiak Robotics Inc., which produces self-driving technology for commerical trucks, is the first company in the nation to participate in the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) Enhanced Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) Inspection Standard pilot program.
Kodiak Robotics inspector gives autonomous truck a close inspection and uploads results to the ... [+] Drivewyze communications platform to inform authorities it does not need to stop at a weigh station.
Under the program that began in April, before Kodiak-equipped autonomous trucks hit the road they're inspected by a CVSA-certified inspector who has completed a 40-hour CVSA training course and passed a corresponding exam. The inspection is valid for 24-hours.
The results are then uploaded to the Drivewyze communications platform which sends a sample Safety Data Message Set to roadside enforcement officials in Texas at participating inspection sites, eliminating the need for the autonomous trucks to pull into a weigh station for further inspection.
Daniel Goff, Head of External Affairs for Kodiak Robotics
“We bypassed or gone past 185 weigh stations in the last three months or so of doing this pilot, and, you know, have really started to see it work with law enforcement to understand the value of it,” said Daniel Goff, Head of External Affairs for Kodiak Robotics in an interview. “We've really learned on our end a little bit about how to do the process efficiently.”
The issue of how to deal with weigh stations has been a vexing one for operators of autonomous trucks since the process has always required a driver's involvement such as turning lights on and off, producing a log book, pressing the brakes.
Kodiak-equipped trucks now only run autonomously over limited-access interstate highways but with a safety driver aboard who takes over in case of a problem and on local roads.
But the ultimate goal is to have self-driving trucks traverse interstates without a human on board—an incentive for figuring out the weigh station issue.
“You can't just say, well, we don't we don't play well with the weigh station, so we're just not doing it,” said Goff. “So this, you know, this shows that there's a solution, I think, is one of the kind of key hurdles to clear and points to a path forward for getting these trucks on the road.”
Together with the CVSA, Drivewyze and the Texas Department of Public Safety, Mountain View, Calif.-based Kodiak has been working to develop the Enhanced Commercial Motor Vehicle Inspection Standard since the CVSA first announced it last September.
The CVSA is a non-profit organization comprised of local, state, provincial, territorial and federal commercial motor vehicle safety officials and industry representatives.
Industry members include autonomous truck company Aurora and robocar company Waymo.
Part of Kodiak's work includes chairing the American Trucking Associations Technology and Maintenance Council Autonomous Truck Inspections and Enforcement Task Force.
“Autonomous vehicles represent a significant change to roadside enforcement, and we are proud to support Texas DPS and Kodiak in rising to the challenge,” said Brian Heath, CEO of Drivewyze in a statement. “To maximize future adoption, it is important that state agencies continue to leverage their existing roadside systems to meet the needs of the emerging AV market.”
Kodiak's Goff believes other companies are interested in participating in similar pilot programs. While this particular test in Texas is Kodiak-specific, the company is looking to take it beyond the Lone Star State.
“There's a lot of interest in this program throughout the country and we are looking to expand this program to other states, but before the end of the year,” said Goff. “We've had some preliminary conversations about testing it out.”
For the five-year old company this latest move to expand the use of autonomous commercial trucks comes during a period of major growth.
With its operating base in Dallas, Texas, Kodiak is delivering over 50 loads per week across the southern United States to cities that include Houston, San Antonio, Oklahoma City and Atlanta, Ga.
Plus, Kodiak formed a partnership this year with Tyson Foods and trucking company C.R. England to launch a pilot program to deliver Tyson products in autonomous refrigerated trucks between Dallas and San Antonio.
Kodiak is also working with the U.S. Department of Defense to develop autonomous military vehicles. The company was heartened by this week's approval by the U.S. House of Representatives of language in the FY2024 National Defense Authorization Act supporting the Department of Defense contracting with commercial technology developers to develop dual-use software for the Army’s Robotic Combat Vehicle (RCV) program.
“We think it's a really good validation of what we're doing and what we're building and it's a far cry from, you know, eight months ago when people kind of said what is this?” said Goff.
Meanwhile, the Texas pilot program with Drivewyze will continue on a open-ended basis, as all the parties involved look to nail down the technology that will make it possible for autonomous commercial trucks to regularly bypass weigh stations...without the need to do so by driving on back roads..”