Plus.ai is a Silicon Valley startup that’s just 3 years old. Their technology has just enabled a fully loaded semi-truck to drive from one side of the US to the other. Known as the coast-to-coast run, it typically takes at least 4 days, but Plus.ai’s self-driving truck managed it in just 3.
It is believed this is the industry’s first coast-to-coast commercial freight run by a self-driving truck. The hub-to-hub journey spanned 2,800 miles (4,500km) from Tulare, CA to Quakertown, PA. By way of comparison, Sydney to Perth in Australia is 3,933km.
Plus.ai claim this is the first Level 4 (no driver intervention) cross-country commercial trip, hauling a fully-loaded refrigerated trailer. Carrying 40,000 pounds of butter, the journey is typical of millions of trips taken by transport companies each year, which presents significant risks like driver fatigue.
The continuous journey was an important milestone in validating the maturity, safety and reliability of Plus.ai’s autonomous driving system and its ability to safely handle a wide range of weather and road conditions.
Driving across interstate 15 and interstate 70, our truck successfully navigated winding roads in the Rockies, long tunnels, high elevation of 11,000+ feet, day and night driving, wet and snowy roads, and temperatures that ranged from -7 to (23.8 Celsius.
Given the 12 US states the trip included and varying legislation approvals, a safety driver was on board at all times to monitor and assume control if needed (they weren’t), and a safety engineer was present to monitor system operations.
Now as you watch the video below, remember how much of Australia’s economy depends on long-haul freight and many of the road accidents and fatalities involve trucks. Then take a second to remember that the most common cause of a fault is human error, eliminating the human with technology like this will save thousands of lives per year.
While this journey included mandatory stops for the humans on-board, future trips will not require humans and computers don’t need to stop, dramatically accelerating the delivery of goods over long distances and improving the profitability of those forward-leaning transport and logistics companies.
Australian regulators need to establish the tests required to prove a company’s technology is up to the task and then move quickly to change the necessary legislaton to enable this technology on our roads.