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Plus will equip IVECO trucks with autonomous driving software

Understanding focuses on diesel and LNG, skips electric trucks for now

Autonomous trucking software maker Plus will team with European truck maker IVECO to equip the S-Way heavy-duty truck with PlusDrive software. (Photo: Plus)

Self-driving truck technology developer Plus will work with Europe’s IVECO to install autonomous software in trucks in China, Europe and elsewhere.

Because of existing partnerships, startup electric truck maker Nikola Corp. (NASDAQ: NKLA) could eventually find itself involved as an add-on to the understanding between Plus and United Kingdom-based CNH Industrial N.V. (NYSE: CNHI). But not right away. And maybe not at all.

IVECO is Nikola’s joint venture partner. The two use IVECO’s S-WAY heavy-duty truck as the basis of the Nikola Tre battery-electric Class 8 truck. It is intended for assembly at Nikola’s plant under construction in Coolidge, Arizona, in the fourth quarter. Prototype production for Europe and export to the U.S. is underway at a plant in Ulm, Germany.

Plus also is a joint venture partner with China’s state-owned First Auto Works (FAW). CNHI and FAW are in talks that could lead to the sale of IVECO to FAW. Bloomberg reported in late March that FAW is preparing  a potential bid for the IVECO truck and bus business. 

CNHI earlier considered splitting off IVECO as a separate business unit. That plan may reemerge as the impact of the pandemic lessens.

“Our JV with FAW continues as usual,” Shawn Kerrigan, Plus co-founder and chief operating officer, told FreightWaves. “We’re currently laser-focused on getting ready to start mass production of our jointly developed intelligent trucks this quarter.”

10,000 preorders

Plus has about 5,000 nonbinding preorders to install its autonomous technology in China and 5,000 non-binding preorders in the U.S., where the technology would be retrofitted on existing trucks.

IVECO and Plus will integrate IVECO’s latest-generation S-WAY with the PlusDrive full-stack autonomous driving system under the terms of the nonbinding memorandum of understanding. They also will explore using IVECO’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) engine system to power the jointly developed autonomous trucks.

LNG-powered S-WAY trucks reduce carbon emissions and reduce empty truck weight, which increases payload capacity. 

The Nikola Tre battery-electric truck is not part of the MOU, Kerrigan said.

“We are thrilled to partner with IVECO, who shares our vision for a safer and more sustainable future through autonomous trucks,” Kerrigan said in a press release. “IVECO’s global footprint in over 160 countries will enable us to accelerate our commercial deployment and magnify the impact of our autonomous driving technology.”

Plus recently added $220 million to a $200 million fundraising round announced in February. It targeted the proceeds for global expansion.

“The partnership with Plus represents an excellent opportunity to accelerate the development of the highest levels of automation for heavy trucks,” said Marco Liccardo, IVECO chief technology officer. 

“Plus’s technology leadership, non-linear thinking, and established relationships with the same key component suppliers make it the perfect partner for our acceleration towards fully driverless trucks.”

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Alan Adler

Alan Adler is an award-winning journalist who worked for The Associated Press and the Detroit Free Press. He also spent two decades in domestic and international media relations and executive communications with General Motors.