Autonomous truck drives 4,500km in 3 days across America to deliver butter

by Autocar Pro News Desk , 21 Dec 2019


In a powerful demonstration of the safety and efficiency that can be achieved when autonomous trucks become commercially available, a self-driving or autonomous truck has completed a coast-to-coast commercial freight run covering all of 2,800 miles or 4,500 kilometres.

Earlier this month, Plus.ai, a Silicon Valley-based start-up and developer of self-driving truck technology, announced that it has successfully completed the first-ever coast-to-coast commercial freight pilot run in the USA.

The autonomous drive saw the driverless truck cover the distance from Tulare, California to Quakertown, Pennsylvania, in less than three days. And it was transporting perishable cargo: 40,000 pounds of unsalted butter! This constitutes the first L4 U.S. cross-country commercial pilot run hauling a fully-loaded refrigerated trailer of perishable cargo.

The truck, which only stopped for mandated breaks, 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. 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 (the butter manufacturer) 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. This is a powerful demonstration of the safety and efficiency that can be achieved when autonomous trucks become commercially available.

Plus.ai is a world leader in self-driving truck technology. Headquartered in Silicon Valley with R&D offices in China, it was founded in 2016 by a group of serial entrepreneurs and industry veterans with over 20 years of experience in high tech and artificial intelligence. Plus.ai specialises in providing full-stack self-driving technology to enable large scale autonomous commercial transport. Plus.ai is currently working with the leading truck manufacturers, largest shippers, and top fleet operators in the U.S. and China.