Plus tests driverless truck along Chinese highway

Plus tests driverless truck along Chinese highway

Earlier this year, automated trucking company Plus delivered the first of its trucks outfitted with a new driver-assist system designed to make driving safer and more comfortable for truck drivers.

Now the company is providing a glimpse at what happens when humans are no longer behind the wheel.

Plus said Thursday it has completed a driverless demonstration of its autonomous trucking technology. No human was aboard the company’s big rig as it trundled along a 20-mile stretch of China’s Wufengshan highway in regular traffic conditions near the Yangtze River delta.

A video of the demonstration, which occurred in July, showed the tractor-trailer changing lanes and showcased the Level 4 automated technology at work. Plus, formerly known as Plus.Ai, obtained a special permit from the local government to conduct the demonstration.

David Liu, the company’s CEO, tells Automotive News the driverless test is as much an incremental development as it is a milestone. Plus showcased its driverless technology in a geofenced area of the Chinese port city of Qingdao in April 2018, and the ongoing testing represents a steady increase in capabilities. Liu is clear-eyed on the long-term nature of transforming the technology into a full-fledged business.

“The technology of the future is here,” he said. “However, to deploy at scale and commercially, it will require maturity on three fronts. One, software, two, hardware and third, regulation.”

The test is not the first in the self-driving truck realm. In June 2018, an autonomous truck operated by now-defunct Starsky Robotics trundled 9.4 miles along the Florida Turnpike near Okeechobee, Fla.

But for Plus, the testing comes at a time when the company is in the process of reaching public markets via a merger with blank-check company Hennessy Capital Investment Corp. V. That deal is expected to close next month.

— Pete Bigelow