Editor’s note: Clarifies production timing in 4th paragraph
California-based autonomous truck software developer Plus is getting more confident about working with Europe’s Iveco to equip trucks with driverless technology.
First announced in April, the work planned for the S-Way model might end up benefiting startup Nikola Corp., which uses the S-Way as a basis for its battery-electric and fuel cell models. Plus said in April that Nikola is not part of its deal with Iveco. Nikola said Monday it had no announcement, which could be interpreted as more open-ended than a flat no comment.
Nikola (NASDAQ: NKLA), which delivered two pre-production models last Friday to Total Transportation Services Inc. for use in drayage testing in Southern California, plans hydrogen-powered fuel cell versions of the S-Way-based truck in 2023.
No autonomous trucking developer has discussed specifics about equipping zero-emission electric trucks with driverless technology.
Iveco expects start of production in 2023 for the PlusDrive Level 3 “eyes off” system, in which a truck can make situational decisions but has a driver who must be ready to take control if necessary. Initial production of high-autonomy Level 4 trucks is expected to begin in 2025 with the start of production for most use cases in 2027.
Watch now: Plus COO and co-founder Shawn Kerrigan on Fuller Speed Ahead
“This pilot [in Germany and China] will accelerate our efforts to start production of autonomous trucks that combine Plus’s production-ready, high-performance, full-stack Level 4 autonomous driving technology with Iveco’s deep engineering expertise and focus on safety and sustainability,” Shawn Kerrigan, Plus chief operating officer and co-founder, said in a press release.
Largely out of public sight
Plus has largely been out of public sight since its $3.3 billion reverse merger with Hennessy Capital Investment Corp. (NASDAQ: HCIC) crumbled in November.. Plus has said it has adequate funding to continue development of its autonomous trucking software.
Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) earlier agreed to purchase PlusDrive systems for retrofitting some of its Class 8 fleet. Plus declines to say how many units have been delivered to Amazon, which had an agreement that could have led to a 20% stake in Plus had the special purpose acquisition company been completed. Plus has begun factory installation of PlusDrive in China at First Auto Works plants. FAW is a manufacturing joint venture partner of Plus.
“As the only autonomous trucking technology company that has already started delivering a commercial product to customers in the heavy-haulage sector, Plus has developed a clear and compelling strategy to launch a driver-in solution first and then a Level 4 autonomous truck,” said Marco Liccardo, Iveco Group designated chief technology and digital officer.