On Wednesday, Kodiak Robotics, the maker of bright red autonomous freight trucks whose early-stage venture backers include Battery Ventures, Charles River Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Tusk Ventures, announced a major partnership with SK Group, South Korea’s third-largest conglomerate. Together, the companies will bring Kodiak’s flagship technology, Kodiak Driver, to the $1.5 trillion Asia-Pacific freight market, and jointly provide fleet management services for Asia customers.
In a statement announcing the partnership, Kodiak said it planned to integrate SK products, components and technology into its autonomous system, including AI-powered microprocessors and advanced emergency braking systems. SK’s corporate umbrella includes more than 120 companies, with a significant presence in logistics, including telematics, shipping and semiconductors.
“Our partnership with Kodiak will help accelerate the commercialization of self-driving trucks in Asia,” said Jungho Shin, executive vice president of SK Inc. “Kodiak’s industry-leading technology and SK’s unrivaled reach in Korea and across Asia make this a natural partnership.”
“SK has an impressive list of companies that enables and fast-tracks our Asian expansion,” said Kodiak Co-Founder and CEO Don Burnette. “Our technology paired with SK’s deep relationships with Asia’s leading logistics and technology partners offers…a unique opportunity to expand our global footprint and commercialize the Kodiak Driver across the Asia-Pacific region.”
Kodiak was founded in 2018 by self-driving industry veteran Don Burnette and venture capital investor Paz Eshel. The company delivered its first load in 2019, with a Safety Driver behind the wheel of the truck. Today, it delivers freight daily between Dallas and Houston, operating autonomously on the middle-mile highway portion of the route, but plans on deploying fully driverless vehicles in the coming years. In December, the company was named a CES 2021 Innovation Award Honoree under the Consumer Technology Association, judged by a panel of industry experts for its innovation, engineering and functionality, aesthetic and design.
Last month, Kodiak announced a major deal with the U.S. Air Force, receiving a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract to develop autonomous vehicles for the flightline of the Dover Air Force Base. In announcing that partnership, Kodiak noted that flightline vehicles offer a particularly suitable use case for autonomous technology, given the unmet demand for drivers and the structured flightline operating environment.