An autonomous truck startup that began only four months ago has raised $US40 million.
Kodiak Robotics, founded by former member of Google’s self-driving car team and previous cofounder of Otto, Don Burnette and former venture capitalist Paz Eshel, say they recognised the strain on the long-haul trucking market.
The American Trucking Association (ATA) reports that trucks are responsible for over 70% of all US freight moved all over the country, generating $US700 billion a year in revenue – but it is struggling to keep up with the need for drivers.
At last count, the ATA said that the industry was short 51,000 drivers at the end of 2017 – a 40% increase from the previous year.
With Google focussing primarily on autonomous cars, Burnette left the Google self-driving project in early 2016.
He then co-founded Otto, with the focus of providing the technology for autonomous trucks, with former Google engineer Anthony Levandowski, Lior Ron and Claire Delaunay.
Otto was later acquired by Uber, but Burnette followed his Otto co-founders lead and departed Uber earlier this year. Uber have since wound down their autonomous truck project, and Levandowski, who was at the centre of the trade secrets lawsuit between Waymo and Uber, has also been in stealth mode with another company, Kache.ai.
“It was no secret that Uber was primarily focused on the car project and 80 to 90 percent of my time was focused on the car project,” Burnette told TechCrunch. “But I still felt that trucking was the killer app for self-driving. I still believe that. I wanted to focus 100 percent of my time on trucking.”
And this is what he will now do, with a significant injection of funding. In just three months, he and Pashel have raised $40 million in a Series A funding round led by global technology investment firm Battery Ventures.
CRV, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Tusk Ventures are also joining in on the funding, and Battery’s General Partner Itzik Parnafes is reportedly joining Kodiak’s board as part of the financing agreement.
Burnette says the funding is indicative of the potential of Kodiak’s mission to meet the needs of the trucking industry.
“This financing, coming just three months after founding Kodiak Robotics, is a huge validation for our vision,” Burnette says.
We believe self-driving trucks will likely be the first autonomous vehicles to support a viable business model, and we are proud to have the support of such high-profile investors to help us execute on our plan.”
“Autonomous driving is likely one of the most major technology shifts of the last 100 years,” says Battery’s Parnafes. “We have been researching this trend for several years and feel confident we are backing an experienced, savvy team that can capitalize on the opportunity in a unique way.