Ikea is stepping into the future: The Swedish furniture retail giant is testing out autonomous delivery vehicles in Texas with help from Kodiak Robotics.
Ikea has tapped Kodiak Robotics, a California-based robotics company specializing in autonomous vehicles like delivery trucks, for help on a new pilot program to test autonomous delivery to Ikea stores. Per Kodiak, the company and Ikea have been in cooperation with each other since August 8 of this year. This pilot program will feature a Kodiak truck transporting products between an Ikea warehouse in Baytown, Texas to an Ikea store in Frisco—a distance of nearly 300 miles.
“Kodiak’s technology will contribute towards our objective to put the driver in focus in the transition towards automated transportation and towards our road safety agenda,” said Dariusz Mroczek in a press release. Mroczek is the Category Area Transport Manager of IKEA Supply Chain Operations.
The caveat here is that these trucks are not completely autonomous, as a “professional safety driver” will be situated behind the wheel during transit. Kodiak told Gizmodo in an email that they will be relying on human backup drivers as they gather more information on the safety of the system before potentially switching to full autonomous trucks, which the company said could take a few years.
Kodiak claims on their website that their trucks are some of the most advanced autonomous freight vehicles in the industry. Their trucks rely on the aptly “Kodiak vision,” which is a combination of cameras, LIDAR, and RADAR that the truck’s computer can use to generate an in-depth understanding of the road around it. Likewise, each truck can update a cloud-based map in real-time, signalling the rest of the fleet of any obstacles or updates that may appear throughout transit.
“IKEA and Kodiak share a commitment to putting safety first,” said Kodiak Robotics founder and CEO Don Burnette. “Together we can enhance safety, improve working conditions for drivers, and create a more sustainable freight transportation system.
Kodiak says that this pilot program is mainly to assess the safety and efficiency of autonomous delivery vehicles in a real-world application. On plans for expansion to the rest of the United States, Ikea told Gizmodo: “Autonomous technology and the regulations both at a state and federal level are still in the development phase in the US but are evolving rapidly. At IKEA, we are always looking for opportunities to better understand what automated vehicles mean for the transportation industry.”