Truck drivers, industry executives and fleet owners responded with enthusiasm to the PlusDrive highly automated driving solution on display during last week’s American Trucking Associations 2022 Management Conference & Exhibition (MCE), where self-driving tech company Plus offered ride-and-drives showcasing its path-breaking commercially available product.
“The experience was like no other,” said a long-haul truck driver, mentor and trainer with 28 years of experience. He was hesitant at first about operating the PlusDrive-equipped truck, featuring cutting-edge software and hardware that work together to help improve the driving experience and make the road safer for all users.
“But after driving the truck, it was an awesome experience,” he said. “It wasn’t overbearing; it’s a great learning tool, and it’s great for safety.”
The annual ATA MCE is one of the biggest trucking events of the year, attracting thousands of trucking’s top decision-makers for policy discussions, educational sessions, interactive exhibits and networking opportunities.
Featured speakers during this year’s event, held in San Diego October 22-25, included U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who addressed the association’s Board of Directors meeting, an event sponsored by Plus, and Robin Hutcheson, the newly confirmed Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg addressing attendees at ATA’ Board of Directors meeting, sponsored by Plus
Buttigieg and Hutcheson provided MCE attendees an update on the agency’s infrastructure and safety investments, plans to expand truck parking and workforce training and apprenticeship programs.
PlusDrive: Better for fleets, safer and more comfortable for drivers
Designed for long-haul operations, the PlusDrive highly automated driving solution makes trucking safer, more fuel efficient, more comfortable, and better for the environment.
With PlusDrive, professional drivers stay behind the wheel and retain control of the vehicle. While the operator needs to remain attentive, they can activate PlusDrive at any time, enabling the vehicle to drive automatically in all traffic conditions on the highway, including staying centered in the lane, making changing lanes that are initiated by the driver, and handling stop-and-go traffic.
Expanded PlusDrive features on display at MCE – where Plus was the only autonomous driving company to provide ride alongs – included suggested lane changes, shoulder vehicle handling and manual speed adjustments by the operator. Additionally, PlusDrive yields 10% or more fuel savings.
PlusDrive-Powered Highly Automated Driving Truck on Display at MCE 2022
On the road with PlusDrive
Commercial vehicle policymakers were among the MCE attendees who participated in the PlusDrive demos, which took place on a 20- mile stretch of I-5 I-15, I-805, I-8, and I-5 in San Diego. Five attendees with commercial drivers licenses (CDL) also test drove the truck themselves.
One of the drivers, Gary Martin, is a small business fleet owner and a 2019-2020 ATA America’s Road Team Captain, an honor awarded to a small group of professional truck drivers with superior safety records. After the test run, Martin said his favorite feature was the way in which PlusDrive handled bumper-to-bumper traffic.
“Literally it comes to a complete stop, and then it accelerates and when traffic slows it’ll stop again. It keeps you a good safe following distance the whole time.”
Compared to other advanced driver assist systems, PlusDrive “is obviously more of an autonomous system than the collision mitigation system that I use,” Martin added. “The ones that we have are good in that they slow you down so that you don’t run into somebody, but the PlusDrive system takes away any chance for error by the driver. Other systems don’t accelerate or change lanes, because they are using five- or ten year-old technology as opposed to what PlusDrive is.”
Another driver, also a Road Team Captain, highlighted the safety benefits of PlusDrive.
“It checks your surroundings. If you miss something, it picks up on it. … and [tells] you whether or not it’s clear to change lanes.”
PlusDrive Highly Automated Driving Technology
Boosting retention and recruitment
PlusDrive can be installed as part of the manufacturing process or upfitted on existing trucks. Some of the world’s largest fleets have already installed PlusDrive units on their trucks, and are currently operating them on public roads nationwide.
With driver shortages continuing to rank as a top concern for fleets, PlusDrive offers a compelling recruitment and retention tool for trucking companies, Plus executives said.
PlusDrive driver-in, highly automated driving system is designed with drivers, for drivers
“These trucks are commercially available today,” said Wiley Deck, Plus Vice President for government affairs and public policy, speaking from the Plus ATA MCE booth. The PlusDrive advanced driver-assist system helps relieve driver fatigue and stress, Deck said, and provides “greater safety, fuel efficiency and a better ride for your drivers.”
Chuck Joseph, Plus vice president of Strategic Partnerships, said: “The number one concern for fleets is driver retention. So technologies that help to keep drivers happy, productive, and longer in their jobs are hugely beneficial. PlusDrive is an investment with a clear and quick ROI for any fleet.”
One of the Road Team Captains, for one, is already sold. He recommends that trucking companies take a close look at the benefits PlusDrive offers. ”Hopefully, in the future, we can integrate this system into our tractor-trailers.”