Plus.ai just drove Level 4 autonomous truck coast-to-coast in 3 days

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...

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.

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Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis.
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  • Simon
    12 December 2019 at 11:26 pm

    As amazing as this is, full load depot to depot runs are actually a minority in the Australian transport industry. Many loads are multi-drop, direct to site or store and often require the driver to be involved in the unloading operation. Depending on the type of freight, the driver could also have to monitor and adjust load restraint or other variables such as temperature control. I also wonder who re-fuels (or re-charges when we go electric) a driverless truck as it makes its way across the country? Speaking of fuel, can you imagine a petrol tanker being allowed to run around with 50,000 litres of flammable liquid and position itself within a crowded servo for unloading without a driver? I think the role of truck drivers is decades away from being obsolete, however the research is already making its way into advanced cruise control features that make modern trucks much safer to drive.

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