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  • OTVI.USA
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  • TLT.USA
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  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
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  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
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Autonomous VehiclesBusinessNews

Former Navistar and GM executive joins Plus.ai board

Dennis Mooney will help the startup commercialize autonomous trucks

Former Navistar and GM senior executive Dennis Mooney has joined the Plus.ai advisory board, the autonomous trucking company announced today.

Mooney will leverage his experience in global product development for automotive and truck manufacturers to work with the Plus.ai team to help bring autonomous trucks to market, according to a press release. 

“We are very pleased to welcome Denny to our advisory board and look forward to his counsel across our engineering, product and commercialization plans,” said Shawn Kerrigan, COO and co-founder of Plus.ai, in the statement.

Mooney is the former senior vice president of global product development and was the vice president of global engineering at Navistar International Corporation.

He had a 31-year career at General Motors, including serving as executive director for vehicle performance at GM Engineering and chairman and managing director of GM Holden in Australia. He led global vehicles systems and integration as vice president before retiring from GM.

Plus.ai’s board announcement comes amid a shakeout in the autonomous car and trucking industry as investors pull back and the coronavirus pandemic wreaks economic havoc.

Those impacted include Starsky Robotics, a remote-operated autonomous trucking company that shuttered in March after the founders failed to raise additional investor funds. Two other self-driving truck startups, Ike and Kodiak, laid off staff this spring.

In an interview with FreightWaves, Kerrigan said Plus.ai had so far not let go or furloughed any of its employees. He touted the company’s “strong partnerships” and “clear” product roadmap, concluding “we feel good overall in terms of our traction and where things are going.”

Unlike some of the other players in the fiercely competitive self-driving truck space, Plus.ai, with operations in California and China, views itself as a technology partner and not a fleet operator, Kerrigan said. The specifics of how the company will bring its Level Four autonomous technology to market will vary depending on the partner.

Through a joint venture with FAW Jiefang, China’s largest truck manufacturer, Plus.ai will help develop self-driving big rigs for the world’s most populous country. The partnership, launched last year, is working on its first product, the FAW J7 Level Two truck, with plans to bring a full Level Four heavy-duty truck to market in three to five years.

Similar collaborations in the U.S. will likely be announced in 2020, Kerrigan said. The company has already conducted several pilots with private shippers, and in 2019 made a big splash by hauling tubs of LandO’Lakes butter in what was billed as the nation’s first cross-country commercial freight run by an autonomous truck. 

Along with most autonomous vehicle companies, Plus.ai stopped testing in California as a result of the coronavirus but is planning to resume trucking operations in the next couple of weeks, as California reopens. Until then, the team continues to focus on simulation testing.

“Plus.ai’s self-driving truck technology can be a real game-changer for the trucking industry, to address long-standing issues of safety, driver comfort and fuel efficiency which would benefit both drivers and fleets,” said Mooney in the release. “I am thrilled to support the team to launch the first autonomous trucks to market.”

Plus.ai has raised $200 million across three funding rounds, according to Crunchbase.

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Linda Baker, Staff Writer

Linda Baker is a FreightWaves staff reporter based in Portland, Oregon. Her beat includes mobility, emissions regulations and autonomous trucking. Please send tips and story ideas to lbaker@freightwaves.com.

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