Autonomous trucking startup Kodiak Robotics has signed a deal with Loadsmith, a marketplace that connects shippers and carriers, to put 800 Kodiak-equipped trucks on its platform.
Loadsmith says its newly formed entity, Loadsmith Transportation, is the first freight transportation company built specifically for self-driving trucks. The Kodiak partnership is meant to serve as the foundation for the new autonomous network.
Last May, Loadsmith secured 350 autonomous trucks through TuSimple, but canceled its order a few months later. TuSimple has had a tumultuous year, including several executive shakeups, large-scale layoffs, federal investigations and the loss of a deal to build purpose-built trucks with Navistar. TuSimple is also facing a delisting from the Nasdaq.
Here’s how the partnership with Kodiak will work. Loadsmith will order the trucks from a dealership, and Kodiak will equip them with its self-driving system, which includes hardware and software, according to Don Burnette, CEO and founder of Kodiak. The trucks will belong to Loadsmith, and Kodiak will sell its self-driving tech on a per-mile subscription basis.
Those trucks will operate on Loadsmith’s freight network (LFN), an ecosystem of predefined routes and freight hubs. Loadsmith will partner with shippers and act as the carrier, deploying its autonomous trucks on long-haul portions of routes.
The geographic area of the LFN has not yet been determined, but it will eventually cover the entire U.S., according to the company. Meanwhile, when Loadsmith starts deploying self-driving trucks, it’ll do so in the southern states. Kodiak has already tested and run freight across the south, from Florida to Texas to Arizona.
To ensure smooth delivery, Loadsmith will also facilitate human-driven trucks to handle local pickups and deliveries.
“The trucking industry already commonly leverages ‘relay operations’ where a driver completes one portion of a route, and then hands off the load to the next driver to complete the next portion of the route,” Brett Suma, founder and CEO of Loadsmith, told TechCrunch. “This is the same concept that will be used for handoff between the human driver, who will complete the first- and last-mile, and autonomous system, which will complete the long-haul portion of the route. “
Until all parts of the trucking journey can be automated, these human-AV team-ups will be essential to commercializing autonomous freight in the short term. Waymo Via, the self-driving truck unit of Alphabet’s Waymo, has developed a “transfer hub” model that relies on similar hand-offs between AVs and human drivers at hubs located near highways. Waymo has partnered with fleet management company Ryder to tap its facilities across the U.S.
Loadsmith will work with a variety of industry partners, including Kodiak, to establish hubs within its LFN. Kodiak is partnering with Pilot Company, a petroleum company that operates truck stops, to build out an ecosystem to support autonomous trucking operations.
The initial Kodiak-equipped trucks will be delivered in the second half of 2025, according to Kodiak. Neither Kodiak nor Loadsmith said when they hope to have all 800 trucks operational on the network. They also didn’t specify an OEM partner, but Kodiak says its system can work on any truck.