Plus, also known as Plus.ai, a worldwide supplier of self-driving truck technology, just completed a 20-mile unmanned driving demo run on China’s freshly built Wufengshan expressway, located near Shanghai in Jiangsu Province. This driverless semi-truck completed a trial run during normal traffic conditions on a newly built China highway without any human intervention.
“We cannot accomplish this on a big scale or securely without billions of miles of road experience. This shows how much we trust in our technology’s maturity and reliability,”
said Shawn Kerrigan, COO and co-founder of Plus.
The technology used in the self-driving trip in China could be incorporated into new trucks or added to existing trucks to help make long route trucking safer and more time-saving.
The technology behind this driverless semi-truck was Plus’s Level 4 autonomous driving without the assistance of a driver or teleoperator. The demonstration was conducted under a special permit on the newly constructed highway. Plus is the first company to obtain such a permit in China.
The startup captured a video of steering wheel movements and vacant cabin and aerial shots of lane changes and other autonomous operations conducted without remote control or further human intervention. This driverless semi-truck demonstration represents a significant step forward for the emerging autonomous trucking industry.
Plus has been testing autonomous vehicles since 2018 and in 2019 completed a coast-to-coast commercial freight run with a self-driving truck that traveled more than 2,800 miles carrying a cargo of Land O’Lakes butter.
Additionally, the firm announced a partnership with China’s Iveco to incorporate its full-stack autonomous technology into Iveco’s heavy-duty vehicles powered by liquefied natural gas. While many future trucks will likely be electric, existing vehicles are experimenting with alternative fuels to reduce pollution.
While this Level 4 technology still has to be tested in various real-world scenarios before it can be securely distributed to the public, it offers a peek into the trucking industry’s future. With nearly 1,000 deaths in 2019, truck driving was the sixth most dangerous profession in 2019.
Plus is also deploying a commercial driver-in solution for semi-trucks called PlusDrive, using the Level 4 technology utilized in the demo.
PlusDrive may be included as standard equipment on newly constructed vehicles or retrofitted onto existing trucks to help make long-haul transportation safer, more efficient, more pleasant, and more environmentally friendly.
Plus is all set to launch by 2022
In China. This quarter will see the start of production of First AutoWorks trucks equipped with PlusDrive technology. The California-based company is expecting to launch pilot operations of this fully driverless truck for public use in 2022.
Plus, a global leader in self-driving truck technology is finding its stride, with a strong order flow that has surpassed 7,000 units. Numerous meaningful collaborations and investors seem to believe that the trend for autonomous trucks is substantial and that we are just at the start of a multi-decade development path.