What happens if an autonomous truck gets a flat tire? Kodiak and Bridgestone are working together to use technology to help keep that from being a problem.
Bridgestone Americas is taking a minority investment in Kodiak Robotics, which will allow the integration of Bridgestone’s smart-sensing tire technologies and fleet solutions into Kodiak’s Level 4 autonomous trucks.
The companies will also pilot future autonomous and smart tire technologies.
“Advancements in tire-centric technologies are critical to unlocking greater innovation in mobility, while also delivering significant sustainability benefits,” said Paolo Ferrari, president and CEO of Bridgestone Americas, in the June 16 announcement. “This investment will enable Bridgestone and Kodiak to work together to co-develop advanced mobility solutions with speed and precision that will revolutionize commercial trucking.”
Why Autonomous Trucks Need Smart Tire Tech
Kodiak and Bridgestone will work together to advance self-driving trucking technology, from tires and sensors to predictive maintenance, explained Don Burnette, Kodiak co-founder and CEO.
He told HDT that Kodiak is using Bridgestone’s smart tire technology, including tire-mounted sensors and tire pressure monitoring systems, to give it real-time insights on the performance of the tires on its autonomous trucks.
This will also give the company “a deep understanding of how those tires will operate in the future, including being able to predict when breakdowns will occur before they do,” Burnette said in an email. “This will help ensure that our self-driving trucks can deliver on their promise of near 24/7 operations at peak safety and efficiency.”
For example, Burnette explained, smart tire technologies can collect data and track if weight is evenly distributed among the truck wheels and axles.
“Weight distribution plays a critical role in vehicle dynamics, controllability, maneuverability and thus safety and vehicle performance. Tire-mounted sensors also give us an understanding of the real-time state of the tires so we avoid a fault before it happens.”
Smart tire technology also will enable lifetime vehicle monitoring, he said, which wasn’t previously possible.
Learning How Autonomous Driving Affects Tire Wear
“Thanks to Kodiak’s autonomous system, we can use data points from every driving function, like speed, throttle, braking and acceleration, in combination with Bridgestone’s sensors, to better understand the impact driving has on tire wear. As a result, we can build much more accurate, predictive maintenance models that can help ensure the tires on our trucks are always operating as they should.”
Kodiak can also use the data to optimize autonomous driving operations so it creates less wear on tires. At the same time, Bridgestone can optimize its tires for near 24/7 autonomous operations, as well as improved performance for tires on manually driven tractors.
Kodiak moves freight autonomously for its customers using its fleet of SAE level 4 self-driving long-haul trucks in the state of Texas with a safety driver on board. With plans to deploy driverless trucks in the next few years, it said in its announcement, “full vehicle intelligence is a major key to unlocking safe, efficient and sustainable autonomy for Kodiak and its customers.”
Bridgestone Chief Technology Officer and Group President, Solutions Businesses, Nizar Trigui, will become a member of Kodiak’s board of directors as an observer.