- Kratos Defense & Security Systems is expanding its self-driving truck solution across the Midwest. Its platooning technology enables lead vehicles operated by humans to be accompanied and mimicked by unoccupied follower vehicles.
- The tech company said it will deploy another set of platooning capable trucks with a 3PL in the Ohio-Indiana region, following previous deployment of trucks with a sugar beet cooperative in North Dakota, called the Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative.
- “Our strategy is to make the internal investments to be first to market with low-cost disruptive systems,” Eric DeMarco, the company's CEO and president, said May 10 at the Goldman Sachs Industrials and Materials Conference.
Platooning technology is allowing lower-cost entry to the autonomous space, where its reach includes the existing truck market rather than solely on “customers who can afford to buy new trucks,” according to Kratos.
“Couple that with the increasing driver shortage and the potential multiplies,” Steve Fendley, president of Kratos Unmanned Systems Division, said in a statement.
The platooning tech goes beyond Kratos. Oklahoma-based carrier Stevens Trucking is looking to deploy the technology with Locomation over a five-year period.
Several state highway departments have also seen the potential for platooning, where a self-driving vehicle operates behind a human-operated vehicle, and undertaken pilot projects to test the technology.
The Colorado Department of Transportation unveiled the autonomous use in 2017 and has been testing “crash-absorbing trucks” since 2018. The department uses two automated safety trucks, primarily for lane-striping projects. The platoons can better protect workers doing highway work because motorists frequently crash into the slower moving vehicles, according to researchers.
Earlier this year, the state announced it will use a $1.9 million federal grant to expand the ways self-driving trucks protect work zone crews.