BMW’s Silicon Valley-based enterprise capital arm is investing in Kodiak Robotics, an organization that develops autonomous trucking expertise.
Kodiak will use the funds to construct out a security case for its self-driving tech stack so it may possibly extra shortly commercialize. It would additionally work on hiring contemporary expertise and increasing its truck fleet, with a acknowledged aim of a minimum of doubling the variety of automobiles it operates annually. The startup at the moment has 10 vans in rotation between its business route in Texas and its check pilot in Mountain View, California.
The phrases of the deal weren’t disclosed. BMW i Ventures often invests in corporations that may present options to BMW’s present and future enterprise, however Kodiak’s CEO and co-founder Don Burnette advised TechCrunch that BMW’s funding was purely monetary and never strategic, which means there may be at the moment no technical partnership between the 2.
This new funding comes only a week after tire-maker Bridgestone announced a minority stake in Kodiak. The financials behind that deal weren’t revealed both. So far, Kodiak has publicly introduced $40 million in funding from its Collection A, and Burnette says the startup has had a number of extra investments since then.
Burnette additionally shared the corporate’s plans to realize driverless operations at scale for lower than 10% of what Waymo has publicly raised up to now – $5.7 billion – and fewer than 25% of TuSimple’s whole current fundraise – about $1.94 billion, together with the cash it raised by means of its IPO. That leaves us with a quantity roughly round $500 million.
“That’s the whole sum of money that we expect we have to get to driverless, and that’s as a result of we expect we’ve been a way more environment friendly firm up till this level, and we are going to proceed to be way more environment friendly going ahead,” mentioned Burnette.
The BMW i Ventures funding will ultimately make up a part of Kodiak’s Collection B. With this newest funding, the corporate isn’t making an attempt to additional develop its self-driving capabilities or options, however relatively it needs to construct out its security case and show that its system can deal with the highway with no driver on board, says Burnette.
“We’re constructing towards a Stage 4 autonomy system, however we nonetheless have a driver within the seat that’s really monitoring our system always,” mentioned Burnette. “At present, we’re technically a Stage 2 system, which is true for almost all people else on the market.”
Automobiles with a human driver supervising operations equivalent to steering, brake and acceleration assist, in addition to issues like lane centering and adaptive cruise management match underneath the Society of Automobile Engineer’s (SAE) definition of Stage 2 autonomy. Stage 4 means the automobile can deal with all features of driving in sure situations with out human intervention.
Kodiak says it’s made progress. In January it introduced its Kodiak Driver achieved “disengagement-free deliveries” (which means the autonomous system didn’t must be switched off for security causes) throughout a business route from Dallas to Houston. The corporate has been operating this route out of its Dallas testing and operations facility for 2 years, and says it’s now achieved a stage of maturity the place the system can deal with something the freeway throws at it.
“We’re doing actually complicated and superior maneuvers, not simply dealing with apparent issues like merges and cut-ins and heavy site visitors, but in addition extra nuanced challenges like figuring out automobiles which can be pulled over on the facet of the highway,” mentioned Burnette. “Our system can robotically establish that after which decelerate as required by legislation, or nudge away from that object to provide it extra space. It will probably additionally think about making a lane change if a lane is obtainable, a technique to give much more clearance to the stalled automobile on the facet, and that is precisely how people drive.”
To get to the purpose the place Kodiak can show its tech is definitely safer than a human driver, and thus appropriate for working commercially at scale, the startup has to construct up its whole miles pushed in simulated environments, structured testing on a personal closed monitor, and in actual world driving.
Burnette says Kodiak is the one firm that doesn’t designate one kind of sensor as ‘major,’ and relatively takes a complete strategy, which means it’s not a lidar-first or vision-first firm. Tesla’s head of AI Andrej Karpathy recently revealed the company’s new supercomputer which takes a vision-only strategy, however Burnette basically disagrees with that methodology.
“We imagine that every of those totally different modalities have strengths and weaknesses, and our goal is to benefit from these strengths and canopy the weaknesses with different modalities, and so we’ve created a sensor fusion algorithm that permits us to contemplate which sensors are advantageous within the moments the place they offer us essentially the most usable data,” mentioned Burnette.
Kodiak doesn’t use HD mapping both, so its vans see in actual time on the highway, which permits the Kodiak Driver to be versatile in terms of altering highway situations or environments. The system is educated utilizing information collected by Kodiak’s vans, in addition to on eventualities devised by its engineers, and that information is auto-labeled using Scale AI, which is among the methods Kodiak is ready to preserve down prices, says Burnette.
Kodiak’s group hails from Google’s authentic self-driving group, Uber, Lyft and different notable tech corporations. Burnette says BMW i Ventures’ funding within the firm got here after an intensive vetting course of through which the agency despatched over their autonomous driving consultants and dug into the group’s experience and tech.