Self-driving truck outfit Plus.ai will launch a safety testing program allowing the company to expand vehicle testing to cover all permissible continental states in the U.S. by the end of 2020.
The tests, announced at CES 2020 in Las Vegas on Jan. 7, will include closed course testing as well as public road testing with a safety driver and operations specialist on board to assume manual control if needed.
The idea is to try out new testing facilities and pilot runs that will broaden the complex driving scenarios that its autonomous system is capable of handling.
“We want to build a technology solution that is applicable across different weather, terrains and driving scenarios,” said Shawn Kerrigan, COO and co-founder of Plus.ai, in a statement.
“Testing our trucks’ readiness means we need to put them through stringent safety tests — on every highway in the country,” Kerrigan added. “That is why we are committing to expand our testing to all states that allow autonomous vehicle testing by the end of this year.”
Plus.ai, one of the only autonomous trucking outfits to exhibit at CES this year, has already conducted testing of its autonomous trucks in 17 states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.
In December, Plus.ai completed what it claimed is the first cross-country Level 4 commercial pilot, hauling tubs of butter on behalf of Land O’Lakes.
State DOT officials expressed enthusiasm about the expanded tests.
“We look forward to having Plus.ai test their autonomous trucks in Minnesota this winter,” said Kristin White, executive director of MnDOT’s Office of Connected and Automated Vehicles, in the release. “Safety innovation is a win for everyone in the transportation system.”
Ohio’s smart mobility ecosystem “is a premier testing ground for autonomous vehicles,” said Patrick Smith, interim executive director of DriveOhio. “Ohio is excited to welcome leading autonomous trucking companies like Plus.ai to test at our state-of-the-art facilities and infrastructure.”
The new testing sites and states will be selected by the end of first quarter in 2020, according to Plus.ai, and implementation will take place through the rest of the year.
Founded in 2016 by a group of Stanford classmates, Plus.ai is one of a handful of trucking startups seeking to automate the long haul. The company has operations in California and China and has been testing vehicles in both countries.
Earlier this year, the company announced a joint venture with FAW Jiefang, China’s largest truck manufacturer, to develop self-driving big rigs for the world’s most populous country.