Kodiak Robotics publicly demonstrated its “fallback” system, which guides an autonomous truck out of traffic over to the side of the road in the event of a truck or system failure.
Ten times each second, Kodiak’s autonomous driving system, Kodiak Driver, evaluates the performance of more than 1,000 safety-critical processes and components. These include both truck-related components such as the engine, oil levels, and tire pressure, as well as autonomous vehicle system components such as sensors and software processes.
Should any of these critical components fall outside the acceptable performance parameters, the Kodiak Driver automatically executes a fallback plan, safely pulling the truck over to the side of the road. For example, if flying roadway debris were to damage one of the autonomous truck’s sensors, the Kodiak Driver would detect the damage and safely pull the truck over.
In the demonstration, a cable to the AV system is cut, triggering the fallback action.
The ability to perform a safe, reliable fallback, otherwise known as having the vehicle assume a minimal risk condition, is critical to safely deploying driverless trucks on public roads, Kodiak officials said in a press release.
“We are the first autonomous trucking company to demonstrate this capability on public roads,” said Kodiak Founder and CEO Don Burnette. “We have integrated fallback technology into the Kodiak Driver’s architecture from the beginning — it would be incredibly hard to add this capability as an afterthought.”
Kodiak’s ability to perform safe fallbacks depends on the company’s custom-designed safety computer, the Actuation Control Engine, or ACE.
“One of the many crucial functions the Kodiak ACE is responsible for is ensuring that our autonomous system can guide the truck to a safe stop when necessary,” Burnette explained.
Kodiak’s ACE safety computer executes a fallback without input from the Kodiak Driver’s main computer. Kodiak’s fourth generation of trucks includes two ACE units for redundancy and additional safety. Should the ACEs lose connection with the Kodiak Driver’s main computer for any reason, from a communications failure to a loose cable, the system will automatically execute a fallback.
The ACE is a universal interface to all truck platforms, and Kodiak is currently working to certify the safety computer to the highest automotive-grade standard.