Maersk Partners With Kodiak on Autonomous Truck Runs
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A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S, the maritime shipping giant that has been diversifying into land transportation, is betting that driverless trucks will help make deliveries more reliable.
Maersk is experimenting with driverless trucks at its shipping yard in Carson, Calif., and has partnered with Kodiak Robotics Inc. to test autonomous truck runs from Houston to Oklahoma City with a safety driver aboard. Driverless trucks will help Maersk improve on-time performance, said Erez Agmoni, Maersk’s global head of innovation for logistics & services.
Maersk ranks No. 5 on the Transport Topics Top 50 list of the largest global freight carriers and No. 26 on the TT Top 100 list of the largest logistics companies in North America.
“Reliability is a super-important element that we want to add,” Agmoni said in an interview.
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Wide variations in transit times are caused by factors such as drivers’ per-day hourly driving limit, Agmoni said. More mundane details — such as the struggle to find increasingly scarce parking spaces before hitting that limit — also have an impact. Autonomous trucks will eliminate those restrictions and reduce the time that a customer’s merchandise is on the road, he said.
Kodiak, Aurora Innovation Inc. and other companies are using sensors and on-board computers to drive trucks with the promise of reducing accidents, cutting fuel consumption, and operating expensive trucks around the clock instead of about 11 hours a day, which is the limit on driver service hours.
Maersk and Kodiak are running trucks 24 hours a day for four days a week between Houston and Oklahoma City with a stopover in Dallas to swap out safety drivers, who must comply with the limit on driver hours. The round trip is being made four times a week.
For the autonomous trucks Maersk is testing in its shipping yard, the company plans to move the trials to a larger site, to be announced soon, to complete the evaluation. There, Maersk is seeking to use all autonomous trucks first during the night shift, which Agmoni said is the hardest shift to find workers for.
#Maersk and @KodiakRobotics are rolling towards the future of #freight with the first commercial #autonomous trucking lane between Houston & Oklahoma City - hauling consumer goods 24/7 for four days a week🚚⚡Dive into the details of the collaboration 👉🏽 https://t.co/w6Urlt6qaq pic.twitter.com/5C4GQ7Q0LL — Maersk (@Maersk) October 5, 2023
The job requires some ingenuity to get autonomous trucks to carry out the routine work that drivers do, such as opening trailer doors before backing up to the dock and connecting the air-brake hoses and electricity lines between the cab and trailer. Maersk is using vision-equipped robots to perform these tasks, he said.
Kodiak CEO Don Burnette said his company is on track to start operations without any human on board the truck by the end of 2024. Even if it takes longer than that, Maersk wants to be ready to deploy the technology, Agmoni said.
“I don’t know if it’s going to be ready in the next two years, but even if it’s the next three years, it’s better for us to be on the front line of this and be sure that we understand it,” he said.
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