California-based self-driving technology company Kodiak Robotics has introduced its inaugural autonomous test vehicle tailored for the United States military. The military-focused autonomous vehicle (AV) is based on a Ford F-150 pickup truck and is equipped with Kodiak Robotics' proprietary Kodiak Driver autonomous technology, encompassing both hardware and software essential for military ground vehicle operations.
The unveiling follows Kodiak Robotics securing a $49.9 million contract with the United States Department of Defense (DOD) nearly a year ago. The deal aimed to develop software for vehicles intended for use by the U.S. Army. Kodiak integrated its portable Kodiak Driver technology into the Ford F-150 within six months, highlighting its modularity and vehicle-agnostic capabilities.
The autonomous software deployed in the military AV mirrors the technology used in Kodiak's self-driving long-haul trucks, which are actively operational in southern states, particularly Texas and Oklahoma. The Ford F-150 features a specialized version of Kodiak's SensorPods, named DefensePod, designed specifically for military applications. Kodiak emphasizes the DefensePod's ease of use, allowing it to be replaced in the field in under 10 minutes without requiring specialized training.
The military AV is designed to navigate complex military environments, including areas with unreliable GPS signals and challenging terrains such as rocks, dust, mud, and water. While operating autonomously, it also offers the capability of remote control by military personnel.
Don Burnette, the founder and CEO of Kodiak, expressed pride in the development, stating, “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.”
As part of the contract with the military, Kodiak will deliver two off-road vehicles based on the Ford F-150. Testing has already commenced, and upon successful completion, Kodiak's autonomous technology will be integrated into a purpose-built ground reconnaissance vehicle for military applications. The testing process involved assessing the technology off-road in Kodiak's semi-trucks before transitioning to the Ford F-150 platform.