Coast To Coast

Kodiak just announced its longest delivery run to-date: 5,600 miles from Texas to California to Florida and back to Texas. The route was part of the kick-off of a partnership with 10 Roads, a freight carrier for high-priority USPS parcels.

One of Kodiak’s advantages is a lightweight process for building highway maps, that allows Kodiak to map highways for autonomous driving after a single human-driven run. That scalability enabled us to quickly prepare the entire round-trip, coast-to-coast route.

Kodiak CEO Don Burnette shared with TechCrunch that “the autonomous system was engaged over 90% of the time.”

One my current projects at Kodiak is helping to bring that engagement rate even higher, especially with respect to construction zones. If that sounds exciting, you should join us!

Send me an email 😊

Don Burnette On Kodiak

Last week, TechCrunch+ (paywall) interviewed Kodiak CEO Don Burnette. Months ago, when I was deciding whether to I join Kodiak, I spent an hour and a half on the phone with Don. We went over a lot of the same questions that wound up in this interview. Perhaps I was good practice 🙂

If you have a TechCrunch+ membership, then the whole thing is worth a read. If not, here are some of the choice quotes.

“…in the fall of last year, we were only doing the Texas triangle between Dallas, Houston
and San Antonio. Since then, we have expanded our network tremendously across the
broader southern United States, for example from Dallas to Atlanta.”

“Our truck fleet is now up to 24 from 11 last year.”

“We’re targeting scaling this [the driver-as-a-service model] in 2025.”

“Last month, we demonstrated how easy it is to replace one of our sensor pods in the field by a non-AV trained technician…We think that’s a unique offering that other folks are not paying attention to, and I think you’re going to see a shift toward our designs and technologies in the next couple of years.”

Hello Kodiak!

I joined Kodiak to work on self-driving trucks!

I’m so excited to be here 😊 🚛 Last week was my start, and I’m already riding along in the truck and kicking off projects on new and exciting problems.

Kodiak has quietly been building an impressive operation tackling middle mile freight transportation, one of the biggest and most conducive markets for autonomy.

My team covers planning, controls, and simulation, and they’ve been building impressively!

I’m enjoying observing the similarities and differences between self-driving trucks and self-driving cars. At a high level, the planning, controls, and simulation tasks are quite similar across industries, but the details create distinctions.

For example, Kodiak trucks operate primarily on controlled-access highways, which makes lane boundaries more salient and reduces some of the complexity inherent in urban driving.

On the other hand, Kodiak trucks travel at highway speeds, much faster than self-driving cars in urban environments. This changes the time and distance horizons for the entire autonomy stack – perception, prediction, planning, and controls.

I’ll write more about the work here in the coming weeks. In the meantime, Kodiak has a great blog with insights about our latest projects.

Lastly, Kodiak is hiring like crazy! We should hire you! Work on self-driving trucks with me.

Send me an email right now to d.silver@kodiak.ai with “Work At Kodiak” in the subject line. I will find a job for you!

Thank You And Farewell, Cruise!

Last Friday was my final day at Cruise. I will miss it!

I joined Cruise in March, 2021, as part of the acquisition of Voyage. In 14 months at Cruise, I learned so much and saw so much growth. It was a really special time.

Most of all, the performance of Cruise AVs astounds me. I drove rode in fully driverless Cruise AVs half-a-dozen times since the beginning of the year, across huge swaths of San Francisco. They drive so, so well. And the experience of having the car entirely to myself, without having to worry about driving, is amazing.

My team at Cruise is terrific, and they are hiring! I can’t recommend them enough. Jason is a great manager.

I am so grateful for everything and everyone I had the privilege of working with over the past year. Truly a world-class engineering team.

Auterion’s SkyNode Flight Control Unit

A tiered stack of Auterion Skynode Flight Control Units, one in orange housing and the rest as loose circuit boards.

Last week got a little crazy for me, so I missed the opportunity to post here about my Forbes.com article and interview with Auterion, a Swiss-American drone manufacturer.

In the past year, drone software start-up Auterion has grown its customer-base of drone manufacturers from five partners to one hundred, according to founder and CEO Lorenz Meier. The four year-old Swiss-American startup has produced drone software from the beginning, but Lorenz ties the recent inflection point to its Skynode reference hardware.

Lorenz Meier, the CEO has a lot of good quotes. Check it out.

Companion Drones

Two flying drones and four ground robots, each about about the size of a baseball.

My latest Forbes.com article features interviews with the CEOs of Draganfly and Digital Dream Labs, which are collaborating on a “companion drone.”

According to Draganfly co-founder and CEO Cameron Chell, the initial $9 million order calls for an initial delivery of 10,000 drones starting in 2022, with 50,000 units over the life of the initial agreement. That will make this model, codenamed Project Breezemo, the most common Draganfly product in existence.

Kind of wild that the biggest drone order (in history, maybe?) is for a companion. Read the whole thing.

Blickfeld Lidar

Blickfeld Qb2 MEMS lidar unit, a box about the size of a baseball.

My latest article in Forbes.com is about Blickfeld, a Munich-based lidar startup with expertise in mirrors and MEMS. I enjoyed interviewing Chief Experience Officer and co-founder Florian Petit.

“Blickfeld isn’t the only MEMS lidar on the market, but co-founder and Chief Experience Office Florian Petit touts that Blickfeld lidar outperform due to their mirrors. “Lidar faces a trade-off between silicon, where small is good, and optics, where large is good,” Petit explains. 

Blickfeld has finessed that tension by developing lidar mirrors with unusually large aperture, which allows them to maintain a wide field of view and high signal-to-noise ratio, while packing a large number of beams into a box roughly the size of an apple.”

Read the whole thing for detail on some of their interesting customers, like the Frankfurt Airport.