U.S. Xpress and Kodiak Robotics, Inc. completed four round trips in a Class 8 tractor-trailer between Austin, Texas and Dallas in March as part of a pilot self-driving truck program. (Courtesy: U.S. Xpress)
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. and CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – U.S. Xpress and Kodiak Robotics, Inc. recently completed four round trips in an autonomous Class 8 tractor-trailer between Austin, Texas and Dallas as part of a pilot self-driving truck program.
The trips, which took place in March using a Kenworth tractor equipped with Kodiak’s Class 4 autonomous technology, included eight segments and ran 24 hours a day for a total of 131 hours over more than five days and 6,350 miles, according to a joint news release from the two companies.
Class 4 autonomous vehicles are considered “high automation” but still have human override capabilities. A rotating team of four professional Kodiak safety drivers oversaw the autonomous system.
“By servicing lanes often deemed less desirable by professional truck drivers, autonomous trucks complement human drivers, allowing them to focus on routes which can provide a more consistent schedule and predictable paycheck,” according to the news release.
Officials with both companies said that that the trips “represent a more than 100% increase in utilization compared to a traditional truck and professional driver with 11 hours of service limit.”
“By increasing the number of hours a truck can be used per day to 20-plus hours, autonomous trucks will allow carriers to haul more freight with fewer trucks, increasing revenue while decreasing costs,” the news release stated. “As part of this partnership, a Kodiak autonomous tractor picked up and delivered U.S. Xpress pre-loaded trailers.”
The companies are planning to soon launch autonomous freight routes between Dallas-Fort Worth and Atlanta, marking the first commercial autonomous trucking lane to the East Coast.
“This pilot demonstrated to our operations teams and our customers the benefits that can come with autonomous technology,” said Eric Fuller, president and CEO of U.S. Xpress.
“We fundamentally believe that Kodiak’s autonomous technology will allow us to scale our fleet while increasing truck utilization compared to a human-driven truck. Our strategic partnership is helping both of our teams identify ways to quickly integrate and scale autonomous technology into our fleet once it is commercially available.”
The two companies said that the route between Dallas and Atlanta “is a perfect entry point for continuous autonomous operations because it’s slightly longer than what a driver is permitted to operate in a day but is too short to economically run as a team.”
“Our partnership with U.S. Xpress marks our service expansion to the East Coast,” said Don Burnette, Founder and CEO of Kodiak.
“We believe it is the furthest east any company has delivered multiple loads using autonomous technology. Having the capacity to sustain 24/7 operations across the more than 750 miles between Dallas and Atlanta — two of our nation’s busiest freight hubs — represents a giant step forward for Kodiak, and for the AV trucking industry as a whole. We chose to make U.S. Xpress a cornerstone partner in our Partner Deployment Program because we see U.S. Xpress and its Variant division as ideal long-term partners for the deployment and scaling of our autonomous long-haul solution.”
In addition to Dallas to Atlanta, Kodiak has been delivering freight daily on the 240-mile lane from Dallas to Houston since mid-2019 and on the 280-mile lane between Dallas and San Antonio since mid-2021.
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