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    2,951.100
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  • OTRI.USA
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    14,737.070
    2,949.900
    25%
  • TLT.USA
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  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
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  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
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  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
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  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
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  • WAIT.USA
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    5.000
    4.1%
  • ITVI.USA
    14,786.640
    2,951.100
    24.9%
  • OTRI.USA
    25.820
    -0.440
    -1.7%
  • OTVI.USA
    14,737.070
    2,949.900
    25%
  • TLT.USA
    2.740
    -0.070
    -2.5%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
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  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
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  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
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  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
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Autonomous VehiclesFuller Speed AheadNewsTechnologyTrucking

Self-driving trucks are almost here (with video)

Plus completed a commercial freight cross-country trip using an autonomous truck last December

Self-driving truck company Plus is focused on applying autonomous technology to the commercial freight market, said co-founder and Chief Operating Officer Shawn Kerrigan.

“We think that there is a tremendous potential in the autonomous vehicle space to improve safety, reduce costs, reduce CO2 emissions and just drive overall economic efficiency,” Kerrigan said.

Kerrigan joined FreightWaves CEO Craig Fuller on a special episode of Fuller Speed Ahead Thursday as part of FreightWaves LIVE @HOME. The topic was “The Path to Safe Deployment of Autonomous Trucks.” 

Fuller said autonomous trucks have the potential to change the freight transportation industry and the overall economy.

“It’s certainly a massive opportunity for innovation, solving a lot of issues around safety, it could solve a lot of issues around emissions and certainly can improve a lot of how our economy and society operates,” Fuller said. “I think a lot of folks in the industry are optimistic about what autonomous vehicles can do. Hopefully the technology can be proven to a point where we can start seeing them on the road.”

Cupertino, California-based Plus was founded in 2016 by Kerrigan and several other entrepreneurs. The company has developed its own advanced autonomous driving system to enable large-scale autonomous commercial freight transport.

In September 2019, Plus announced a partnership with Chinese truck maker FAW Jiefang to develop autonomous trucks for China. The production-class Level 2 semi-autonomous truck will be built on Plus’ Level 4 autonomous technology stack.

“Our first product will be launching in China next year,” Kerrigan said. “While we’re a California-based company, we’ve taken a global perspective to the rollout of this technology.” 

The Society of Automotive Engineers defines six levels of driving automation ranging from zero (fully manual) to 5 (fully autonomous). These levels have been adopted by the U.S. Department of Transportation. 

Fuller asked Kerrigan when will “a Level 5 (full driving automation), truly driverless vehicle be able to go on our nation’s highways?”

Kerrigan pointed to the year 2024 as the soonest possible date when we could see Level 4 autonomous vehicles on the road. Level 4 is considered to be fully autonomous driving, although a human driver can still request control, and the vehicle still has a cockpit.

Last December, Plus completed a commercial freight cross-country trip using a Level 4 autonomous truck, which finished a 2,800-mile-run from California to Pennsylvania for Land O’Lakes in three days. A licensed driver and safety engineer were on board for the trip.

“It’s a function of when the original equipment manufacturers are ready and the Tier 1 components you need are ready and the regulatory pieces are ready and so on,” Kerrigan said. “So there’s a lot of different things that need to line up for that to happen. But I think that the types of time frames that we’re seeing is probably around 2024 to start to see some initial operation in Level 4.”

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Noi Mahoney.

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Noi Mahoney

Noi Mahoney is the Cross-Border Mexico Reporter for FreightWaves.com. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in English in 1999. Mahoney has more than 20 years experience as a reporter and editor. He has worked for newspapers in Florida, Maryland and Texas.

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