Plus Completes Driverless Semi Truck Demonstration on Public Roads

The News: Plus (formerly announced today that it has completed a driverless semi truck demonstration on a highway. The demonstration was operated using Plus’s Level 4 autonomous driving technology, without a driver, teleoperator, or any other human intervention. This is a significant milestone for the autonomous driving industry. Plus is applying this L4 technology to deploy a commercial driver-in product for semi trucks called PlusDrive. Read the full press release here.

Analyst Take: Trucking can be a tough job. Long hours and massive distances to cover for drivers can be exhausting. In 2019, there were over 2 million heavy tractor-trailer truck drivers in the US. With the uptick in online shopping and package deliveries, that number has likely increased by 2021.

This driverless semi truck demo is a huge step forward for the autonomous trucking industry which has been in development for some time now. This test was performed on the Wufengshan highway in China in the Yangtze Delta during regular traffic conditions. To be able to perform safely in normal conditions shows the maturity of the technology that was last tested in 2018. Plus expects to be able to launch a pilot test program for driverless truck operations by 2022. It’s only a matter of time before seeing a semitruck without a driver becomes commonplace on our highways.

For now, Plus launched a new technology for semi trucks called PlusDrive, which is notably built on NVIDIA’s Drive Orin platform (SoC). This technology can be built into new trucks or added to existing ones. It is a driver-in technology, which means the semi truck will still be operated by a driver, but it can help make long haul trucking more efficient, comfortable, and safer. Plus also announced that commercial fleets have been adding PlusDrive to their vehicles since February 2021. Like I said, this is a huge advancement for long haul trucking that has been in development for some time.

This announcement coincides with another big announcement from Plus, in which Amazon made a significant commitment to buy 1,000 units from Plus, and took an option to acquire a portion of the company via a warrant structure. An investment and partnership with Amazon should indicate to outsiders that the technology is being viewed positively by large-scale users like Amazon, which could single handedly propel major revenue toward Plus.

The Future of Driverless Trucks

While this Level 4 technology still needs to be tested in a myriad of real-life conditions before it can be safely released to the public, it’s a promising glimpse into the future of the trucking industry. In 2019, truck driving was the seventh most fatal job in the country with over 1,000 fatalities. This Level 4 technology and PlusDrive will make the industry safer for truck drivers as well as other drivers on the road.

And while many fear that automation will fully take over the industry, I don’t think that’s likely anytime soon. Driver-in technology is just the next step in the industry and will be a helpful value-add for truck drivers. Commercial fleets can begin adding this product now instead of waiting many more years for fully autonomous trucks to be operational which definitely where we are headed in the future. I don’t believe we will be seeing any driverless trucks on highways in the US anytime soon, but I do think that this is a promising step forward and will positively impact everyone on the road.

Overall, Plus is hitting its stride with a robust order flow usurping 7,000 units, several key partnerships, and investors that seem to share the belief that the trajectory for autonomous trucks is significant and we are really only at the beginning of what should be a multi-decade growth journey.

Futurum Research provides industry research and analysis. These columns are for educational purposes only and should not be considered in any way investment advice. Neither the Author or Futurum Research holds any positions in any companies mentioned in this article.

Other insights from Futurum Research:

Twilio Growth Accelerates in Q2 Growing 67% on Strong Demand

Qualcomm Blows Past Estimates on 5G and Growth Plays

Microsoft Sees Overall Revenue Growth Pass 20% in Q4

Image Credit: Plus

Author Information

Daniel is the CEO of The Futurum Group. Living his life at the intersection of people and technology, Daniel works with the world’s largest technology brands exploring Digital Transformation and how it is influencing the enterprise.

From the leading edge of AI to global technology policy, Daniel makes the connections between business, people and tech that are required for companies to benefit most from their technology investments. Daniel is a top 5 globally ranked industry analyst and his ideas are regularly cited or shared in television appearances by CNBC, Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal and hundreds of other sites around the world.

A 7x Best-Selling Author including his most recent book “Human/Machine.” Daniel is also a Forbes and MarketWatch (Dow Jones) contributor.

An MBA and Former Graduate Adjunct Faculty, Daniel is an Austin Texas transplant after 40 years in Chicago. His speaking takes him around the world each year as he shares his vision of the role technology will play in our future.


Latest Insights:

With the Introduction of Its New NPU-Powered Core Ultra Processor, Intel Launches the Era of the AI PC
Olivier Blanchard, Research Director at The Futurum Group, shares his insights on why Intel’s new Core Ultra processor is an inflection point for both Intel and the PC segment as a whole.
Avaya Experience Platform Is Making Strides With a Solid Cadence of Feature Rollouts
Sherril Hanson, Senior Analyst at The Futurum Group, breaks down Avaya’s announcement on its progress across multiple fronts and discusses the latest enhancements to the Avaya Experience Platform.
The Six Five Team discusses Amazon FTC.
The Six Five Team discusses Apple iPhone 15 defects.