Kodiak self-driving truck handles catastrophic tyre puncture

Kodiak CTO Andreas Wendel on latest self-driving truck test track success.

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Video: Kodiak self-driving truck handles catastrophic tyre failure

US company Kodiak has posted amazing test track footage of a self-driving articulated lorry handling a massive tyre blowout.

Cars of the Future readers will recognise the name from our US truckers in vanguard of self-driving feature earlier this year.

Back then, we covered how Kodiak has been delivering freight daily between Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston, operating autonomously on the highway section of the route for over a year.

Self-driving truck puncture test

Now, they’ve published video addressing what Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Andreas Wendel describes as “probably the safety-related question we get the most”: a catastrophic tyre failure.

Kodiak self-driving truck handles catastrophic tyre puncture

“The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration estimates that tire problems were responsible for approximately 15% of truck-related crashes,” he said.

“As we develop our self-driving system, the KodiakDriver, we wanted to demonstrate that we can handle the bad things that can happen in real world driving, and tire blowouts are usually the first safety risk in mind.

“For all you non-Commercial Driver’s License-holders (CDL-holders), a tire blowout is a big deal, even when the vehicle you’re driving has 18 of them.

“On a big rig truck, the back 16 tires are paired dual tires, while all the steering is done by the two front single tires, called the steer tires.

“Steer tires are responsible for steering, handling, and ensuring a steady ride for humans and cargo alike. If one of the back 16 tires pops, a dual tire is able to compensate and carry some weight until the truck comes to a stop. If one of the single steer tires pops, it’s a whole different story.

“For all CDL-holders, you already know that the first step towards handling complex, catastrophic situations like tire blowouts is making a quick determination that a failure has occurred, then fighting to remain in control, and eventually safely pulling over to the side of the road.

“Trucks with popped tires travel erratically and unpredictably, with unexpected and unknown vehicle dynamics. Even if the tire just goes flat, you can’t maintain speed. This will potentially lead the truck to aggressively veering.

“The rubber may be stripped from the tire, forcing the vehicle to drive on a bare metal rim. In a worst-case scenario, the truck may swerve, jackknife, or even roll over. Once a truck suffers a steer tire blowout, it behaves like an entirely different truck.

Kodiak self-driving truck handles puncture
Kodiak self-driving truck handles puncture

“That’s why we’re so excited to become the first self-driving trucking company to demonstrate that we can maintain complete control of the truck even after suffering a catastrophic tire blowout.

“As shown in the video, KodiakDriver can stay in control of a truck and bring it to a safe and complete stop even when rolling over a giant spike and instantaneously popping a steer tire.

“Once we incorporated the findings from our low-tire pressure tests into the KodiakDriver’s control algorithms, it was time to test with a completely deflated tire flopping off the rim. This test allowed us to confirm that the controller can still steer the truck with a completely deflated tire, laying the groundwork for a spontaneous blowout.

“After deliberate testing at different tire pressures, we were ready to demonstrate a sudden tire blowout. Executing this test is more complex than you’d think: the vehicle needs to race down the test track and squarely hit a puncture rig, which is a spike mounted to a metal plate. 

“For a human, the precision needed to consistently hit the puncture rig is higher than you’d think. Thankfully, the KodiakDriver is a much more precise driver than a human, and remains dead center in a lane unless it needs to nudge over to one side or another.

“With this consistency our team was easily able to identify where the KodiakDriver would pass on specific sections of the test rack and place the puncture rig accordingly.

“Finally, we were ready to demonstrate a tire blowout with a full tractor and trailer. No holding back!”

For further info, visit the Kodiak website.

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Author: Neil Kennett

Neil is MD of Featurebank Ltd. He launched Carsofthefuture.co.uk in 2019.