Jan 17, 2024 - News

Driverless 18-wheelers coming to Dallas

A red truck cab

Expect to share the North Texas roads with these later this year. Photo: Courtesy of Kodiak

Dallas will soon be a launchpad for 18-wheelers carrying freight from city to city, without a driver in the cab.

Driving the news: California-based Kodiak Robotics unveiled its "driverless-ready semi-truck" at the 2024 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week and said its first driverless route, between Houston and Dallas, will launch in the second half of this year.

  • Pittsburgh-based Aurora Innovation is also planning to launch fully driverless trucks in Texas by the end of the year, with Dallas to Houston as the first route.

The big picture: Texas has become a self-driving testing ground in recent years, thanks to a 2017 law allowing motor vehicles with automated driving systems to operate in the state without a "human operator."

State of play: Autonomous truck developers have tested their rigs with real customers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, using backup safety drivers until the technology is ready to go solo.

  • Kodiak has a hub in Lancaster and contracts with companies like IKEA, C.R. England and Tyson to move their freight.
  • Aurora is partnering with auto supplier Continental to create what it says will be the world's first scalable autonomous trucking system that incorporates Aurora's technology into trucks.
  • Aurora will roll out the first phase of driverless trucks later this year and then partner with Continental to expand the driverless technology to thousands of trucks by 2027.

How it works: Kodiak trucks have sensors that conduct roughly 1,000 checks on the surrounding environment every 100 milliseconds to identify and adjust to the behavior of other drivers, according to the company.

  • Command centers in Lancaster and Mountain View, California, keep an eye on the trucks and can take over the driving functions remotely if needed.

What they're saying: "Kodiak picked Dallas to Houston as the first driverless route because it is a major freight lane, and the region combines generally good weather with favorable regulatory environment for the technology," a Kodiak spokesperson tells Axios.

  • "Nearly half of all truck freight in Texas moves along the I-45 between Dallas and Houston, making this corridor an ideal route for Aurora's commercial launch," the company said in a news release last year.

What we're watching: Whether driverless trucks will actually help make our roads safer, as company leaders have claimed.

Worthy of your time: Naheed's test ride with a Kodiak truck

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to note Aurora will partner with Continental after it releases its first phase of driverless trucks (not before).

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