The first autonomous test vehicle designed by Kodiak Robotics specifically for the US Department of Defense (DoD) has been unveiled. The vehicle is a Ford F-150 upfitted with Kodiak’s autonomous system, the KodiakDriver, and contains both the autonomy hardware and software required to operate a military ground vehicle.
The vehicle is designed to handle complex military environments, diverse operational conditions and areas with degraded GPS, as well as off-road variables like rocks, dust, mud and water. It can also provide the Army with the ability to remotely operate vehicles when necessary.
Don Burnette, founder and CEO of Kodiak, a self-driving technology developer for the trucking and defense markets, said, “We have built a comprehensive autonomous system that can be integrated into any vehicle, from a Class 8 truck to a pickup, to a next-generation defense vehicle.
“Integrating Kodiak’s technology into an off-road capable vehicle shows the potential for commercial and dual-use technology to revolutionize national security, just as the Department of Defense is looking to ramp up its focus on autonomous technology.”
In December 2022, Kodiak announced a contract award with options up to US$50m with the US DoD, specifically the Defense Innovation Unit in support of the US Army, to develop demonstrator prototype autonomous ground vehicles.
As part of this contract, Kodiak designed its vehicle in line with the Army’s Product Manager Robotic Combat Vehicle program’s unique Software Acquisition Pathways strategy, which enables the DoD to acquire hardware and software solutions separately, to ensure it gets the best possible combination of hardware and software for persistent modernization.
As part of this program, Kodiak was tasked with building and delivering two off-road-capable vehicles based on the Ford F-150 vehicle. Kodiak began testing the vehicles at a US military base this November. Once the testing is successfully completed, Kodiak plans to put its autonomous system into a purpose-built ground reconnaissance vehicle for military use.
In the past six months, Kodiak demonstrated the portability of the Kodiak Driver by integrating it into a new vehicle in less than six months. This rapid development is possible due to the versatility of Kodiak’s modular and vehicle-agnostic autonomous system.
The vehicle runs the same software as Kodiak’s autonomous long-haul trucks, and features Kodiak DefensePods, an adapted version of Kodiak’s modular, swappable SensorPods, designed for defense applications. A technician can swap out a DefensePod in the field in 10 minutes or less, with no specialized training required.
Prior to testing the F-150 vehicles, Kodiak used its semi-trucks to test its autonomous system in off-road environments. Testing the Kodiak Driver in off-road environments also helps Kodiak improve its on-road long-haul trucking technology. For example, testing on off-road terrain has helped Kodiak further harden its hardware platform while improving the Kodiak Driver’s handling of dust, rocks and other small obstacles.
Burnette said, “We are proud to support the military and look forward to the day that Kodiak Driver-powered vehicles can provide the US military with more mission options and technical superiority, all while keeping our servicemen and women out of harm’s way.”