Tyson Foods Inc. (NYSE: TSN) of Springdale on Thursday announced a pilot program for autonomous delivery of its protein products between Dallas and San Antonio.
The program is a partnership between Tyson, Kodiak Robotics Inc. of Mountain View, California, and trucking firm C.R. England Inc. of Salt Lake City.
Deliveries are set to begin this month using Kodiak self-driving trucks and C.R. England refrigerated trailers, Tyson said in a news release. Safety drivers will be in the trucks in the initial stages of the pilot.
Testing by Kodiak indicates that self-driving trucks provide increased safety and reliability, and could help address a shortage of drivers in the trucking industry, according to the release.
"By employing self-driving trucks, we can increase capacity and expedite deliveries without sacrificing customer service, as our valued drivers will take over to interface with customers and consignees at either end of the load," said Chad England, CEO of C.R. England. "Our intent is to be a ‘one-stop shop’ for customers, whether they need their freight moved autonomously or not.”
Kodiak, founded in 2018, is also testing driverless freight service between Dallas and Atlanta in partnership with publicly traded Forward Air Corp. of Greeneville, Tennessee, an asset-light provider.
In addition to Tyson's pilot program, Kodiak has an Arkansas connection in James Reed, its chief operations officer. Reed was the CEO of USA Truck of Van Buren before it was sold to DB Schenker of Germany last year.
With Tyson's pilot program, the meat giant joins two other public companies in Arkansas that have explored driverless technology. Walmart Inc. of Bentonville has been testing driverless delivery with Gatik, and in November 2021 announced that it would remove safety drivers and go fully autonomous for deliveries in Arkansas. J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. of Lowell launched a driverless trucking program in June 2021 in partnership with Waymo.
Deliveries in Arkansas had included a passenger in the cab for emergencies, but in November, after 18 months of successful operations, the company removed the passenger and went fully autonomous.
"Tyson Foods is pursuing the leading edge of technology in all aspects of our business, especially in transportation," Patrick Simmons, Tyson's vice president of transportation, said in the release. "Autonomous trucks are just one piece of the puzzle in this innovation journey to use technology to operate more efficiently and to help ensure our transportation loads are delivered in a timely fashion."