- an autonomous semi truck developed by plus.ai made a cross-country trip in less than three days, trouble free with no incidences where a human driver had to intervene unexpectedly.
- the 2800-mile trip was done mostly autonomously, with all stops being preplanned.
- the money that could be saved through automated trucking is one of the reasons for increasing numbers of companies trying it out.
like the holiday season, self-driving technology breakthroughs can often solicit a damn, it’s already here? reaction. and the news of a self-driving semi truck driving across the country without any disengagements—times that a human safety driver had to intervene—should do just that.
a truck equipped with technology developed by plus.ai, a tech startup that specializes in self-driving technology for fleets, drove from tulare, california, to quakertown, pennsylvania, under a three-day period just before thanksgiving. the truck carried 20 tons of butter for the company land o'lakes in what plus.ai claims is an industry first for commercial freight.
the truck traveled 2800 miles mostly autonomously, stopping only for scheduled breaks. there were two people on board for the trek, the safety driver and a safety engineer, for the first cross-country trip that plus.ai has had a truck take. despite the maiden voyage's success, plus.ai's chief operating officer, shawn kerrigan, told the mercury news, "we're still a few years out" from this happening regularly, but kerrigan did tell cnbc that he believes driverless trucks will be ready before driverless cars.
plus.ai is just one of many companies pushing to revolutionize trucking and change the way goods are transported. embark trucks had a semi truck drive from los angeles to jacksonville, florida, without relying on the human driver while on the highway, in early 2018. einride put a completely driverless electric truck on the road in sweden in may of this year; the truck drives along 300 meters of road, 100 meters of which is public, and is allowed to reach speeds of 3 mph.
with some analysts estimating that automation of the trucking industry would save companies over $100 billion, it's only a matter of time before no driver at all, safety or otherwise, is required for butter deliveries.