An autonomous truck, equipped with a self-driving system from technology specialist Plus.ai, has completed the first coast-to-coast commercial freight run in the US.
The truck, which was hauling a refrigerated trailer loaded with 18 tonnes of butter, started its journey in Tulare, California. It then drove some 4500 kilometres, from West Coast to East Coast, to Quakertown, Pennsylvania.
Level 4 autonomy – meaning driver interaction or attention is not required most of the time – allowed the truck to safely traverse Interstate 15 and Interstate 70.
A safety driver and engineer were present but the Plus.ai advanced autonomous driving system reportedly tackled changing road and weather conditions, as well as multi-mile tunnels and construction works, without fuss.
Plus.ai, which is headquartered in Silicon Valley and has research offices in China, was founded in 2016 to develop autonomous technology for large-scale commercial transport applications.
It has since been testing partially and fully automated technology, for manufacturers and fleets, in both the United States and China – and this three-day trial, moving butter for dairy foods specialist Land O’Lakes, marked a significant milestone in the development of such systems.
“This cross-country freight run with Land O’Lakes shows the safety, efficiency and maturity of our autonomous trucks, which are already delivering freight for other partners several days a week,” said Plus.ai chief operating officer and co-founder Shawn Kerrigan.
“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.”
Autonomous driving is bound to become a key facet of the haulage industry in the future, primarily due to the wide range of potential benefits on offer – including the ability to run trucks at off-peak times, boosting speed and efficiency without compromising safety due to fatigued drivers.