The U.S. trucking industry is large and has historically adopted technology at a tempered pace. In 2017, the U.S. trucking industry transported over $20 trillion in goods, resulting in annual revenue of $726 billion.
This industry has been hampered by broker inefficiency and a long-haul driver shortages. The top 20 freight brokers account for less than 4% of total U.S. commercial trucking revenue. This fragmentation contributes to intense competition and low profit margins throughout the industry, making it ripe for automation. Kodiak Robotics is developing technology to build and operate a fully autonomous trucking company focused on the “middle mile” of commercial freight.
Autonomous trucking also offers an attractive solution to the constrained supply of drivers, especially as freight demand grows. Younger people have been less inclined to pursue the trucking profession. In 2016, the driver shortage was estimated at 48,000 drivers and is expected to increase to 175,000 drivers by 2024. Lastly, truck driving is generally considered an unhealthy lifestyle, often resulting in sleep deprivation and drug reliance.
Kodiak is distinguished by it’s software solutions which are aimed to work with “off-the-shelf ” hardware components, including: radar, LiDAR and cameras on semi-specialized trucks. The company uses simulations and structured testing to calibrate their software as one of the challenges that the business faces is its inability to collect data on every situation that a truck will encounter while on the middle mile.
I believe Kodiak’s technology is well positioned to execute on its goal of fully autonomous trucks. However, I believe a core challenge that the company will face is working with / managing their original equipment manufacturers. Kodiak’s strategy relies heavily on their ability to integrate and work closely with their EOMs. Given this, if I were to provide the management team with advice moving forward I would recommend that they work very closely with and establish great relationships with original equipment manufacturers.