This article is part of a VB Lab Insight series paid for by Plus.
Breaking away from the competition, Plus, a Silicon Valley-based provider of autonomous trucking technology, is taking an innovative driver-in approach to commercialization that aligns with the critical challenges facing the trucking industry today.
According to newly-released estimates of traffic fatalities in 2021, crashes involving at least one large truck increased 13% compared to the previous year.
With a nationwide truck driver shortage estimated at 80,000 last year and growing, PlusDrive, Plus’s market-ready supervised autonomous driving solution, helps long-haul operators reduce stress while improving safety for all road users.
First-to-market solution helps fleets today
In 2021 Plus achieved a critical industry milestone, becoming the first self-driving trucking technology company to deliver a commercial product to the hands of customers. Over the past year Plus has delivered units of PlusDrive to some of the world’s largest fleets and truck manufacturers.
These units are not demos or test systems. Shippers have installed the technology on their trucks and PlusDrive-equipped trucks with the shippers’ drivers are hauling commercial loads on public roads nationwide.
PlusDrive improves safety and driver comfort, and saves at least 10% in fuel expenses, addressing driver recruitment and retention while offsetting surging diesel prices and other costs tied to today’s volatile trucking market.
Plus’s first-to-market shipments and installations validate the progress the company has made in developing a safe, reliable driver-in technology solution for the long-haul trucking industry.
PlusDrive will reach more fleets this year as Plus continues to expand the close collaboration with customers pioneering the use of driver-in autonomous trucking technology for their heavy-duty truck operations.
Partnerships unlock commercial pathways for PlusDrive
Partnerships with industry stakeholders — from automotive suppliers to truck manufacturers and regulators — have been critical to Plus’s success, helping to unlock innovation and commercial pathways to deploy its technology globally. Its autonomous driving technology can be retrofitted on existing trucks or installed at the factory level. With Cummins and IVECO, Plus is also developing autonomous trucks powered by natural gas for the U.S. and Europe.
Building on the market penetration it has achieved already, Plus this month announced a collaboration with Velociti, a fleet technology solutions company, creating a nationwide installation and service network capable of delivering PlusDrive semi-autonomous trucks to customers within 12 hours. Maintenance services are also available nationwide by utilizing mobile resources to meet customers at their preferred location.
The program, known as Plus Build, equips Class 8 trucks with state-of-the-art lidar, radar and camera sensors and Plus’s proprietary autonomous driving software.
With PlusDrive, truck drivers stay in the cabin to oversee the Level 4 technology, but they do not have to actively drive the vehicle. Instead, they can turn on PlusDrive to automatically drive the truck on highways in all traffic conditions, including staying centered in the lane, changing lanes and handling stop-and-go traffic. PlusDrive reduces driver stress and fatigue, providing a compelling recruitment and retention tool during a time of driver shortages.
Velociti’s nationwide installation and maintenance network will help get PlusDrive into the hands of more truck drivers across the country, making their jobs “safer, easier and better,” said Shawn Kerrigan, COO and co-founder of Plus.
“Plus Build helps companies unlock the benefits of autonomous driving technology today by quickly modernizing trucks to improve their safety and uptime.”
Drivers are on board for next-generation autonomous driving technology
Plus works closely with customers, drivers and industry partners to help them understand the advantages of PlusDrive. Their testimonials validate the key benefits of the system.
“I am an admitted cynic, and I was blown away,” said commercial vehicle and transportation industry analyst Ann Rundle, Vice President of ACT Research. After taking a demo ride of a PlusDrive-enabled truck at the recent Advanced Clean Transportation Expo, Rundle said, “It was so seamless. I suppose if I wasn’t watching the screen that indicated the system is ‘Engaged’ I might have wondered [if PlusDrive was indeed still doing the driving].”
A professional driver invited to test PlusDrive echoed those sentiments. “If I were to have a system like this in my truck,” he said, “it would make my job a whole lot smoother, easier and a lot less stressful.”
Another operator from a customer fleet praised PlusDrive for “reinforcing safety; just keep giving us these tools — it’s a tool to help us help the company.”
PlusDrive keeps economy moving, safely
Startups competing for a slice of the self-driving trucking future are aligned on the long-term goal of getting fully driverless commercial trucks (with no safety drivers) on the road. But Plus stands out as the only company to release a product that enables fleets and drivers to benefit from automation today, when there is little sign of an end to the chaos and stress roiling the freight markets. Through its collaborative, considered approach to delivering its autonomous trucking technology as a commercial product now, Plus is maximizing benefits for fleets while making long-haul trucking safer and easier for the hard-working operators who keep the nation’s economy moving.
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