on the road

Texas roads will soon see self-driving semi trucks between Houston and Dallas

Kodiak Robotics unveiled its driverless semi-truck technology this month, which is expected to hit Texas roads later this year. Photo via Kodiak

Kodiak Robotics is scaling up its driverless semi truck, which will initially carry cargo on a Houston-to-Dallas route that’s set to formally launch this year.

The most recent version of Kodiak’s truck debuted in Las Vegas at the recent 2024 Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Mountain View, California-based Kodiak Robotics says the truck is equipped with safety-critical software and hardware (including braking, steering and sensors).

Kodiak’s sixth-generation truck builds on the company’s five years of real-world testing, which includes carrying 5,000 loads over more than 2.5 million miles.

“We’re the first and only company to have developed a feature-complete driverless semitruck with the level of automotive-grade safety redundancy necessary to deploy on public roads,” Don Burnette, founder and CEO of Kodiak, says in a news release.

“Over the course of 2.5 million miles, we’ve successfully demonstrated that our self-driving trucks can withstand the harsh environment of long-haul trucking from both a platform integrity and a software perspective,” he adds. “This truck fundamentally demonstrates that we’ve done the work necessary to safely handle driverless operations.”

Among the highlights of the sixth-generation truck are:

  • A pneumatic braking system controlled by Kodiak’s proprietary software.
  • A redundant steering system.
  • A proprietary safety computer.
  • A redundant power system.
  • Proprietary SensorPods for housing sensors.
  • Microphones designed to detect the presence of the sirens of emergency vehicles and other suspicious sounds.
  • An advanced communication system.

Founded in 2018, Kodiak has been delivering freight in Texas since mid-2019, including a Houston-to-Dallas route. Kodiak announced in 2022 that it had teamed up with Swedish retailer IKEA to pilot autonomous freight deliveries in Texas between the IKEA warehouse in Baytown and the IKEA store in Frisco.

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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A View From HETI

Houston could have ranked higher on a global report of top cities in the world if it had a bit more business diversification. Photo via Getty Images

A new analysis positions the Energy Capital of the World as an economic dynamo, albeit a flawed one.

The recently released Oxford Economics Global Cities Index, which assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the world’s 1,000 largest cities, puts Houston at No. 25.

Houston ranks well for economics (No. 15) and human capital (No. 18), but ranks poorly for governance (No. 184), environment (No. 271), and quality of life (No. 298).

New York City appears at No. 1 on the index, followed by London; San Jose, California; Tokyo; and Paris. Dallas lands at No. 18 and Austin at No. 39.

In its Global Cities Index report, Oxford Economics says Houston’s status as “an international and vertically integrated hub for the oil and gas sector makes it an economic powerhouse. Most aspects of the industry — downstream, midstream, and upstream — are managed from here, including the major fuel refining and petrochemicals sectors.”

“And although the city has notable aerospace and logistics sectors and has diversified into other areas such as biomedical research and tech, its fortunes remain very much tied to oil and gas,” the report adds. “As such, its economic stability and growth lag other leading cities in the index.”

The report points out that Houston ranks highly in the human capital category thanks to the large number of corporate headquarters in the region. The Houston area is home to the headquarters of 26 Fortune 500 companies, including ExxonMobil, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Sysco.

Another contributor to Houston’s human capital ranking, the report says, is the presence of Rice University, the University of Houston and the Texas Medical Center.

“Despite this,” says the report, “it lacks the number of world-leading universities that other cities have, and only performs moderately in terms of the educational attainment of its residents.”

Slower-than-expected population growth and an aging population weaken Houston’s human capital score, the report says.

Meanwhile, Houston’s score for quality is life is hurt by a high level of income inequality, along with a low life expectancy compared with nearly half the 1,000 cities on the list, says the report.

Also in the quality-of-life bucket, the report underscores the region’s variety of arts, cultural, and recreational activities. But that’s offset by urban sprawl, traffic congestion, an underdeveloped public transportation system, decreased air quality, and high carbon emissions.

Furthermore, the report downgrades Houston’s environmental stature due to the risks of hurricanes and flooding.

“Undoubtedly, Houston is a leading business [center] that plays a key role in supporting the U.S. economy,” says the report, “but given its shortcomings in other categories, it will need to follow the path of some of its more well-rounded peers in order to move up in the rankings.”

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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