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Travel center operator Pilot Co. and automated technology firm Kodiak Robotics on Aug. 23 announced formation of a partnership under which the companies will collaboratively develop autonomous truck services at Pilot and Flying J travel centers across North America.
As an initial step, the companies are developing an autonomous truck port in the Atlanta area. Potential service offerings at this facility include spaces for autonomous trucks to pick up and drop off loads, as well as bays for vehicle inspection, maintenance and refueling, and spots for data transfer and processing for feature development and mapping.
Under the deal, Pilot has made an investment in Kodiak and will join the automated firm’s board of directors.
“In making this strategic investment, we understand that our customers have a need for real solutions that help address the growing demand to move goods, and Kodiak is a strong leader in the autonomous trucking space,” said Pilot Vice President of Strategy and Business Development John Tully. “As we explore the future of autonomous trucks and how we can best support these customers, we will continue to be the travel center network that the trucking industry and professional drivers can count on for the services and care they need.”
The companies said combining Pilot’s network of travel centers and services with Kodiak’s technology will play a crucial role in the deployment of autonomous trucks.
“Pilot Co.’s industry-leading network of highway-adjacent travel centers provides unprecedented geographic reach for the launch and scale of Kodiak’s fast-growing network of autonomous trucking lanes,” Kodiak founder and CEO Don Burnette said. “Their customer-first approach, with a focus on technology, scale and infrastructure, makes Pilot Co. an ideal partner to support the service and maintenance of self-driving trucks nationwide. We are honored to have Pilot Co. as an investor, strategic partner and supporter of our continued commercial footprint growth.”
Both Pilot and Kodiak have been expanding in 2022. In March, Pilot Flying J announced plans to spend $1 billion to remodel nearly 500 of its oldest travel centers. The Knoxville, Tenn.-based company said the three-year initiative, which it’s calling “New Horizons,” is its largest ever plan to modernize and upgrade its facilities. Some of the money will be spent to upgrade some newer facilities, but those changes will not be as extensive. All told, the company has 800 stores.
Renovations now underway will result in a substantially new look for 60 locations by early 2023. Another 90 will get a more moderate upgrade. Plus, Pilot Flying J is building 34 new locations this year.
Changes include parking lot improvements with upgraded lighting and design changes to enhance the flow of traffic for truck and passenger-car drivers to refuel. Restrooms will also get a substantial overhaul with brighter lighting, new tiles and updated fixtures that are more energy efficient and feature touchless technology. Redesigned showers will be larger for truck drivers and easier for employees to clean and maintain.
Pilot is also anticipating the ongoing shift toward a more diverse energy future by adding electric charging stations and preparing for alternatives besides unleaded gasoline and diesel. Some of those updates could arrive by year’s end.
Kodiak has been in an aggressive growth phase. In July, it partnered with 10 Roads Express, a provider of time-sensitive surface transportation for the U.S. Postal Service, as that company expanded service to Florida.
Kodiak also expanded its operations with a new route between Dallas and Oklahoma City with Ceva Logistics, as well as a route between Dallas and Atlanta with U.S. Xpress.
Kodiak has been delivering freight commercially since 2019 and has six routes that run regularly between Dallas and Houston, Austin, San Antonio, Atlanta, Oklahoma City and Jacksonville.
Founded in 1958, Pilot operates the country’s fourth largest tanker fleet. Its more than 1,600 trucks supply 800 retail and fueling locations with more than 14 billion gallons of fuel each year. The company serves 1.3 million guests a day at its travel centers, it said.
It ranks No. 24 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest private carriers in North America.
Kodiak Robotics began operations in 2018, and is focused on developing automated technology specifically for longhaul trucks.
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