Kodiak Robotics will autonomously transport cargo for Tyson Foods

by Ana Lopez

Autonomous trucking startup Kodiak Robotics has partnered with trucking company CR England to autonomously ship Tyson Foods products between Dallas and San Antonio, Texas.

A human safety operator will be present in the only dedicated truck Kodiak assigns to this pilot. Deliveries will begin this month, the company said.

The pilot program is the latest in Kodiak’s growing series of paid partnerships with major airlines, further demonstrating the startup’s potential path to sustainability and even profitability once it takes the human safety driver out of operations.

A Kodiak spokesperson said the company aims to remove the security operator within a few years.

During the pilot with Tyson, Kodiak will ship three to five loads per week. CR England will have one of its human drivers deliver a refrigerated trailer preloaded with Tyson protein products to Kodiak’s plant in Lancaster, just outside Dallas. Next, one of Kodiak’s autonomous trucks will deliver the cargo to a CR England dropyard in San Antonio. From there, a CR England truck and driver will take the trailer to its final destination in Laredo.

Kodiak says the partnership is not only symbolic of how human-powered trucks and autonomous trucks can work together, but also provides a use case for autonomy as a solution to move perishable products in a timely manner.

“One of the categories in which CR England leads is in perishable foods, which require the safest, most reliable, on-time delivery,” CR England CEO Chad England said in a statement. “Kodiak‘s proven track record and commitment to customer success make it a great partner to help us bring autonomous service into our operations.’

As part of the partnership, CR England is also participating in Kodiak’s Partner Development Program, Kodiak’s way of working with carriers to build autonomous freight operations and hopefully integrate Kodiak’s self-driving system into their fleet.

“Our intention is to be a ‘one-stop-shop’ for customers, whether they want their cargo to be transported autonomously or not,” said England.

Other companies that are part of this development program are 10 Roads Express, Werner Enterprises and US Xpress. Each of those partnerships included a short trucking pilot that offered lessons on what autonomous truck operations might look like if deployed at scale.

“For example, with some of them, we are currently deciding on the next job where we will move cargo with them,” Michael Wiesinger, VP of commercialization at Kodiak, told businessupdates.org. “Some say they want longer lanes. We recently announced Dallas to Atlanta and we’re going to be doing more of that, so now it’s about figuring out together when is the right time to start those freight operations again. And how does it work from our capacity perspective, because we also have limited capacity.”

All told, Kodiak has approximately 30 trucks in its fleet that perform more than 50 loads per week, all paid commercial deliveries. Kodiak has maintained ongoing cargo pilots with Ceva Logistics, Ikea and Forward Air, as well as a few other companies that the startup has not yet publicly announced, Wiesinger said.

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