Ikea experiments with deliveries between warehouses on autonomous trucks
Ikea has partnered with Kodiak Robotics, an autonomous driving company, to test driverless deliveries from its warehouses in the United States. Since August this year, an independent Kodiak heavy-duty truck has been delivering furniture daily from an Ikea distribution centre near Houston to a retail shop in Dallas. Although the truck has a backup driver behind the wheel, responsible for picking up the trailer and supervising the delivery, the truck autonomously travels long stretches of the highway during its 480 km one-way trip. With this partnership, Ikea hopes to understand better how autonomous deliveries can make long-haul journeys safer and lead to better working conditions for truck drivers.
“We are proud to work with Kodiak to achieve our ambitious goals of being at the forefront of innovation and capacity building for future transport,” said Dariusz Mroczek, Category Area Transport Manager, Ikea Supply Chain Operations. “Kodiak’s technology will contribute to our goal of putting the driver at the centre of the transition to automated transport and our road safety agenda”.
Although Kodiak’s vehicles are not electric, an earlier study by UC San Diego on another company’s vehicles shows that autonomous trucks are about 10 per cent more efficient than their traditional counterparts. According to Forbes, the two companies have agreed on a three-month pilot programme, but if all goes well, they could sign a multi-year deal that will cater to many Ikea shops and warehouses. The Swedish brand has also embraced technological advances in recent months. In June, it launched a new artificial intelligence-based app that can scan rooms using Lidar sensors to create 3D home replicas to integrate and try out Ikea furniture. The company also signed an agreement to install Electrify America’s quick chargers in more than 25 of its shops in the US.
This is not Kodiak’s first self-driving program. The company has been running freight in Texas with its autonomous test trucks since 2019 and recently opened a new route between Dallas and Oklahoma City. Kodiak has also conducted pilot tests with logistics giants Werner Enterprises US Xpress, which operate self-driving trucks from Dallas to Lake City, Florida and Atlanta, respectively.