Kodiak Robotics aims to launch driverless freight deliveries between Houston and Dallas in 2024

The California-based technology company has been making autonomous hauls between Texas’ two largest cities, while having a human behind the wheel to oversee operations, since 2019.

Kodiak Driverless Truck
Kodiak Robotics
Kodiak Robotics plans to start making driverless freight deliveries between Houston and Dallas before the end of 2024.

A company that has been developing driverless technology for semi-trucks says it plans to start making autonomous freight deliveries between Houston and Dallas later this year.

Kodiak Robotics, a California-based startup with a hub in the Dallas suburb of Lancaster, earlier this week unveiled what it calls the "world's first driverless-ready semi-truck designed for scaled development" at a trade show in Las Vegas. The vehicle is equipped with a series of sensors and microphones, top-mounted hazard lights and backup systems for braking, steering and power generation, in the interest of making it safe for roads as well as fail-safe, according to a news release from the company.

Since 2019, Kodiak has hauled about 5,000 loads covering more than 2.5 million miles while having a human behind the wheel to oversee autonomous operations, according to Daniel Goff, the company's director of external affairs. He said Kodiak will continue to use that model while building a "safety case," a series of arguments and proofs that demonstrate its driverless trucks are as safe as human-operated vehicles, and plans to launch fully autonomous operations "when we're ready."

Kodiak does not need the approval of any governments or regulatory agencies, Goff said.

"At this point, this technology is no longer futuristic," he said. "It's here."

Aurora Innovation Inc., a Pittsburgh-based company founded in 2017, also has made autonomous freight deliveries between Dallas and Houston while utilizing humans to oversee the hauls. The company announced last April that it planned to start a driverless commercial freight service between Texas' two largest cities by the end of 2024.

Cruise launched a driverless ride-hailing service in Houston in October, but subsequently suspended operations company-wide in response to a federal safety investigation, the suspension of its operating permits in California and general distrust among the public.

An annual automated vehicle survey conducted last year by AAA found that 68% of Americans were afraid of driverless cars and trucks, up from 55% in 2022.

Goff said Kodiak vehicles, which also have been making human-overseen deliveries from the Dallas area to Atlanta, Austin, Oklahoma City and San Antonio, have been involved in fewer than five collisions that he categorized as "minor" and not because of any fault by Kodiak. He also said there were no injuries caused by those collisions.

"So we're really proud of the safety record we've built," he said. "We're looking forward to continuing to make the road even safer."

Many of Kodiak's hauls between Houston and Dallas have been through a partnership with IKEA, the Swedish home furnishings retailer, according to Goff. He said Kodiak also has partnerships with Tyson Foods and freight companies C.R. England and Werner Enterprises, among others.

Once its technology is ready for the road, Goff said Kodiak's business model is to sell it to trucking companies and charge per-mile fees for using the technology, while assisting those companies with deploying it.

He referred to the unveiling of Kodiak's latest semi-truck as a "big step forward for the industry."

"We're really excited about it," Goff said. "Hopefully other Texans will be excited as well."