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Kodiak Robotics Shows ‘Fallback’ System for Trucks Facing Critical Failure

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May 12, 2022

Kodiak Robotics has publicly demonstrated its fallback system, technology that autonomously pulls a self-driving truck over to the side of the road in the event of a truck or system failure. The company said a fallback is critical to safely deploying driverless trucks on public roads.

“To launch an autonomous vehicle without a human driver, you must ensure the vehicle will protect motorists in the case of a truck or autonomous system failure,” said Don Burnette, the founder and CEO of Kodiak. “Implementing a fallback system is a fundamental necessity to achieving that level of safety. We are the first autonomous trucking company to demonstrate this capability on public roads. We have integrated fallback technology into the Kodiak Driver’s architecture from the beginning – it would be incredibly hard to add this capability as an afterthought.”

Kodiak said that 10 times each second, the self-driving Kodiak Driver system evaluates the performance of more than 1,000 safety-critical processes and components in both the self-driving stack and the underlying truck platform. Components include both truck-related parts such as the engine, oil levels, and tire pressure, as well as autonomous vehicle system components, such as sensors and software processes. If any of these critical components fall outside the acceptable performance parameters, the Kodiak Driver automatically executes a fallback plan, safely pulling the truck over to the side of the road. For example, if flying roadway debris were to damage one of the truck’s sensors, the Kodiak Driver would detect the damage and safely pull the truck over, the company said.

“It’s essential that the self-driving technology powering an 80,000-pound semi-truck is capable of reacting swiftly and safely, no matter what happens,” said Burnette. “Kodiak’s autonomous trucks are constantly monitoring themselves and preparing to pull over in case of a fault, just like a human would.” This ability to perform safe fallbacks relies on its custom-designed safety computer, the Actuation Control Engine (ACE), he added.

The company said while critical failures such as blown tires and engine problems are uncommon in motor vehicles, they can be dangerous if not handled appropriately. When a human is not in the vehicle to react to these situations, fallback technology that responds accordingly is essential. “Just as a brainstem is able to react quickly without waiting for input from the brain, Kodiak’s ACE safety computer executes a fallback without input from the Kodiak Driver’s main computer,” the company said. 

Kodiak said its fourth generation of trucks include two ACE units for redundancy and additional safety. In addition, the ACE is a universal interface to all truck platforms, and the company is working to certify the safety computer to the highest automotive-grade standard.

For more details, visit the Kodiak Robotics website here.

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