In its latest demonstration of how its autonomous truck can handle unexpected occurences on the highway, Kodiak Robotics released a video showing how its autonomous technology, the Kodiak Driver, can maintain control of the truck when it suffers a catastrophic steer-axle tire blowout.
The video shows a Kodiak self-driving truck rolling over a test rig that punctures the front driver-side tire of a Kodiak Class 8 tractor while the autonomous technology is engaged. Even after the tire is destroyed, the Kodiak Driver stays in control and brings the truck to a safe and complete stop while maintaining its lane, with the driver’s hands off the wheel.
Kodiak told HDT that the truck was traveling approximately 35 mph when it struck the spike. When asked about how it would perform at highway speeds, Dan Goff, Kodiak's head of external affairs, responded that Kodiak has tested the tire blowout in simulation at 65 mph. "The simulation shows that the truck would still remain in-lane if the truck was traveling at that speed."
Steer tire blowouts instantly cause trucks to behave erratically and unpredictably, potentially resulting in a loss of control, jackknifing, or other dangerous situations. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration estimate in a 2015 report that tire problems were responsible for approximately 15% of truck-related crashes.
Kodiak said its self-driving trucks can instantly react to the change in vehicle dynamics. In the case of the blown tire, the truck compensates for the failed tire by applying an entirely different steering angle. This exercise has been repeated multiple times and Kodiak truck’s consistent ability to maintain its lane positioning illustrates the adaptability and control of the Kodiak Driver, said the company in a news release.
“People ask us all the time ‘what happens if you blow a tire,’ and we wanted to showcase how the Kodiak Driver can maintain control more precisely than a traditional truck, even with a completely destroyed tire,” said Don Burnette, founder and CEO, Kodiak Robotics. “We can’t control the hazards trucks will face on the open road, but we can control how the trucks behave when a critical situation occurs.”
This blown tire demonstration relies on Kodiak’s fallback technology that guides Kodiak’s self-driving trucks to a safe stop in the event of a critical system failure. Upon experiencing the blowout, the autonomous system can immediately detect the tire fault, identify and adapt to the new vehicle dynamics, initiate the fallback protocol, trigger the hazard lights to turn on, and bring the truck to a stop within the lane. The speed of detection and level of control is critical for ensuring the safety of all motorists.
In order to clearly demonstrate the Kodiak Driver’s ability to maintain precise control in such a volatile situation, Kodiak chose to execute an in-lane fallback at a proving grounds in Texas. If a tire were to blow in a real-world setting, Kodiak explained, the truck would automatically execute its fallback plan, typically pulling it to a safe stop on the side of the road.
Updated 11/22/2022 to add information about the speed the truck was traveling at the time of the blowout.