As the slow march towards autonomous vehicles continues, the big rig trucking industry could be one of the most impacted. At the same time, the dangers of an ill-programed autonomous 18-wheeler are much greater too. One firm working on that problem, Kodiak, a self-driving trucking startup, just showed how well its software can handle a tire blowout.
Kodiak Robotics is just one of many companies working on autonomous trucking but it’s one of very few showing off results. In a recent test, one of its trucks experienced a blowout at 35 mph (22 km/h) and safely came to a stop without issue. That might not be highway speed but it’s still an impressive show of ability.
“These are really hard to control, and demonstrating the ability of our autonomous driver to not only recognize the blowout in a fraction of a second, but then be able to safely handle it, is something that’s foundational to being able to launch autonomous vehicles,” Jordan Coleman, vice president of policy at Kodiak, told Automotive News.
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It’s very much worth noting that the way this truck reacted to its blown tire, stopping in the lane, isn’t the only way that Kodiak wants its trucks to handle safety issues. Back in May of this year, the firm demonstrated what the truck does when it experienced another critical system failure.
In that case, the team showed off what happened when the self-driving system lost connection via an ethernet cord. As soon as the cable was cut, the truck slowed and pulled off to the side of the road and out of traffic. According to company spokesperson Daniel Goff, a truck with a blown tire will also pull off of the road so long as it’s safe to do so.
Coleman highlighted the fact that safety, not speed in the delivery of products would always be at the forefront of Kodiak’s operation. “We might not always do the right thing in terms of getting things from Point A to Point B, but it’s about showing we’re always going to do the safe thing,” he said.
“No matter what happens, we’re going to do something safe and protect motorists around the trucks. That’s the bar for launch.” We’re excited to see future tests like this. It’ll be interesting to see how any autonomous vehicle reacts at highway speeds or when there’s a blowout or major issue while in the midst of a complex maneuver like a turn.