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11th December 2019

First cross-country commercial freight run by a self-driving truck

Plus.ai, a leading provider of self-driving truck technology, has announced its first coast-to-coast commercial freight run, in collaboration with food company Land O'Lakes, Inc.

 

 

Plus.ai was founded in 2016 by a group of entrepreneurs and industry veterans with over 20 years of experience in high tech systems and artificial intelligence. Headquartered in Silicon Valley, and with R&D offices in China, it has become a leader in self-driving truck technology. Yesterday, the company announced that it has completed the first coast-to-coast commercial freight run with an autonomous truck, on behalf of food company Land O’Lakes.

The level 4 (L4) autonomous truck completed the hub-to-hub trip from Tulare, CA to Quakertown, PA – a journey of 2,800 miles – in less than three days. This is the first L4 U.S. cross-country commercial pilot hauling a fully-loaded refrigerated trailer of perishable cargo. Level 4 autonomy is defined as no driver attention ever being required for safety, e.g. the driver may safely go to sleep, or leave the driver's seat.

The truck was equipped with Plus.ai’s advanced autonomous driving system, which utilises multimodal sensor fusion, deep learning visual algorithms, and simultaneous location and mapping (SLAM) technologies. The journey was an important milestone in validating the system’s ability to safely handle a wide range of weather and road conditions.

 

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The vehicle drove primarily in autonomous mode through the 2,800 miles across interstate 15 and interstate 70, passing through varied terrains and weather conditions. A safety driver was onboard at all times to monitor and assume control if needed, and a safety engineer was present to monitor system operations.

“This cross-country freight run with Land O’Lakes shows the safety, efficiency and maturity of our autonomous trucks, which are already delivering freight for other partners several days a week,” said Shawn Kerrigan, COO and co-founder of Plus.ai. “Continued advances in our autonomous trucks will make it possible for these quick cross-country runs to be the norm in the future. We are excited to demonstrate what our technology can already achieve today while meeting rigorous autonomous driving safety and food transportation compliance standards.”

“Self-driving and other emerging transportation technologies stand to completely reshape commercial shipping, so we are thrilled to collaborate with technology leaders like Plus.ai to pilot autonomous trucks for our shipping needs,” said Yone Dewberry, Land O’Lakes’ Chief Supply Chain Officer. “End of the year is a very busy time for us. To be able to address this peak demand with a fuel- and cost-effective freight transport solution will be tremendously valuable to our business.”

On its continuous cross-country journey, the Plus.ai autonomous truck safely navigated driving day and night through the expansive plains of Kansas, winding roads of the Rockies, road construction, multi-mile tunnels, over 11,000 feet elevation, and was greeted with rainy and snowy roads heading east, all in under three days. There were zero "disengagements," or times the self-driving system had to be suspended because of a problem. The truck hauled over 18,100 kg (40,000 lb) of Land O’Lakes butter in time for the Christmas period. This is a powerful demonstration of the safety and efficiency that can be achieved when autonomous trucks become commercially available.

A dozen or so companies in the U.S. are working on autonomous freight delivery. Plus.ai is the first to achieve a commercial run of such long distance, but many others are expected to follow in 2020 and 2021. Experts believe the trucking industry could begin mass commercial rollouts from 2022 onwards.

 

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