Just two weeks after Uber announced that it is closing down its self-driving truck division, a new startup has revealed itself to the world. And they’ve already got $40 million in funding.
Kodiak Robotics is similar to Uber’s self-driving truck program in a few ways. Uber’s program began as a startup called Otto. One of Otto’s cofounders was a former Google employee named Don Burnette. Burnette is also one of Kodiak’s cofounders. Otto (and later Uber) was trying to create a kit which could retrofit an existing truck to give it self-driving capabilities. While details around Kodiak are still hazy, it looks like they’ll likely be attempting the same thing.
Kodiak was founded in April, but stayed in stealth-mode until this week when it announced that it had completed its $40 million series A funding round. The company will use the money to hire more staff and start its test fleet. Currently Kodiak only has around 10 employees.
Even though Kodiak’s origin story sounds a lot like Otto, Burnette says the new company is different.
For one, Kodiak will likely be using LiDAR sensors, radar, cameras, and sonar – just about every type of sensor possible. All of that technology already exists. Now the challenge is to design a system that can take all of that information and know what to do with it.
Burnette also says that unlike Uber, Kodiak will be using sensors built by other companies – a plan which could keep them from ending up in the same legal trouble as Uber did.
And finally, Kodiak will be focusing 100% on autonomous trucks. No cars.
Burnette said. “A company has to be 100% hyper-focused on one problem and one problem only. We plan to solve just the long-haul, self-driving truck problem.”
As for how to solve that problem, Kodiak is likely planning to go the highway-only-driving route with a human driver taking over on local roads.
“You get on the road, stick in the right lane, and don’t hit the thing in front of you,” says Burnette.