Self-driving truck startup Plus has completed a driverless Level 4 truck demonstration on a highway in China’s Yangtze Delta.
The trip was made without a safety driver, teleoperator or any other forms of human intervention.
Plus said the highway journey represents a significant milestone in the autonomous trucking industry. The demonstration was conducted with a special permit on the newly built highway in the economic center of the Yangtze Delta. Plus claims it was the first company to be granted such a permit in China.
“The driverless demo highlights the ability of our Level 4 autonomous driving technology to enable driverless highway operations in a semi truck,” said Shawn Kerrigan, COO and co-founder of Plus. “The demo shows the safety, maturity and functionality of our technology, and we are excited to continue to work closely with our suppliers, fleet customers and OEM partners to further develop, test and refine a driverless product for commercial deployment.”
The long-term goal for Plus is to launch pilot operations for fully driverless trucks in a dedicated environment in 2022.
The technology used in the self-driving trip in China can be a standard configuration of newly built trucks or added to existing trucks to help make long-haul trucking safer, more efficient, more comfortable and better for the environment, Plus said.
Plus has been developing autonomous trucks since 2018 and in 2019 conduced a coast-to-coast commercial freight run in a self-driving tuck that carried a load of Land O’Lakes butter more than 2,800 miles. Additionally, the company this year formed an agreement with China’s Iveco to integrate its full-stack autonomous system into Iveco’s heavy-duty trucks that uses a liquefied natural gas engine system. While many future trucks may be electric, current vehicles are looking to explore alternative fuels to cut emissions.
Autonomous trucks are seen as a way to solve challenges facing first-mile logistics — an aging driver workforce, the need for more trucks on the road and continued safety issues — because trucks without a driver can operate more than double the hours every day, bring down the cost of transportation and reduce the thousands of lives lost in preventable accidents every year.