Photo: Pilot Co.
Pilot Kodiak 1

Kodiak’s ‘Pilot’ project will test autonomous truckports at travel centers

Aug. 24, 2022
Pilot Flying J has partnered with Kodiak to vet self-driving truck services, including inspections and maintenance, in Atlanta.

Truck stop chain Pilot Flying J is used to handling every type of traveler, from commuters to road trippers to long haulers. Soon, the largest operator of travel centers in North America will be able to serve autonomous vehicles (AVs) as well, if the just-announced partnership with self-driving trucking company Kodiak Robotics works out as expected.

Starting at an Atlanta Pilot Flying J location, Pilot Company, which also made a strategic investment in Kodiak, will begin testing what types of services can be offered to autonomous tractor-trailers and at what scale, with Kodiak providing technical expertise.

“Through this partnership, we’re working with Kodiak to help develop a blueprint that will allow Pilot Company to better support the maintenance and fueling needs of autonomous vehicles and ensure we are able to meet the current and future needs of our fleet customers,” John Tully, VP of strategy and business at Pilot explained to Fleet Maintenance.

Earlier in August, Pilot Co. announced a partnership with Bridgestone Americas to create an advanced tire monitoring and service network for commercial fleets at select travel center locations, using IntelliTire, Bridgestone’s tire pressure monitoring solution.

See also: Kodiak explains how maintenance will change with AVs

Kodiak already has a route established between Atlanta and Dallas with U.S. Xpress, and this autonomous truck port will help support those operations, as well as offer valuable insights into the needs of AVs when commercial operations become more commonplace. Kodiak began delivering commercial freight in 2019, though under far more scrutiny than a typical Class 8 over-the-road application.

“These services will include specified spaces to pick-up and drop-off autonomous trucking loads, conducting inspections, refueling trucks, light maintenance, and the ability to transfer data for processing that will be used for various purposes, such as feature development and mapping,” Tully noted. “The long-term objective is to leverage Pilot Company’s extensive travel center network to support nationwide operations.”

This partnership will also “further define service and maintenance requirements, operational necessities, facilities planning, and more that will help us to better meet the needs of fleets investing in autonomous trucks,” Tully said.

Pilot comprises 800 retail and fueling locations, and that “unprecedented geographic reach” and “focus on technology, scale, and infrastructure” made it the natural choice for a travel center partner, said Don Burnette, founder and CEO of Kodiak Robotics.

Kodiak has had a busy 2022, which the company termed a “hyper-growth phase,” entering partnerships with 10 Roads Express, a provider of time sensitive surface transportation for the U.S. Postal Service, for operations in Florida, as well as CEVA Logistics for a Dallas-Oklahoma City route.

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