According to several news sources, Amazon.com Inc. is in talks to buy a stake in artificial intelligence truck-driving startup Plus and has placed an order for 1,000 autonomous driving systems.
The deal would give Amazon the right to buy preferred shares of Plus via a warrant at a price of $0.46647 per share, an anonymous source told Bloomberg. That would amount to a 20% stake based on the company's shares outstanding before its planned merger with special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Hennessy Capital Investment Corp. V. A filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission confirmed Bloomberg’s report.
Plus said last month that it is set to have a valuation of $3.3 billion, adding $500 million in proceeds to accelerate its expansion. The Cupertino, California-based company is backed by Sequoia Capital and raised $150 million via private investment in public equity, or PIPE, from funds including BlackRock Inc. and D.E. Shaw.
Plus plans for mass production
Plus, formerly known as Plus.ai, is developing autonomous trucks with the stated mission of making long-haul trucking safer, cheaper, more comfortable, and better for the environment.
“Trucking is the backbone of our country’s economy, society, and our personal lives, quietly moving goods we use and eat every day,” said the company. “We are applying automated driving technology to trucks today so that fleets and drivers can start benefiting from this revolutionary technology. Our automated driving system, PlusDrive, will improve the lives of truck drivers around the world while saving lives lost to heavy truck-related accidents and making our world greener through reduced carbon emissions.”
Founded by a group of Stanford University classmates in 2016, Plus is backed by investors including Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp., GSR Ventures Management, and a Chinese long-haul company known in English as Full Truck Alliance. It also has a partnership with European truckmaker Iveco SpA and is working with Cummins Inc. on using autonomous technology in trucks powered by natural gas.
The company began delivering its PlusDrive system to some customers in the U.S. and China this year. In addition, state-owned China FAW Group Co. plans to start mass production of jointly-developed autonomous trucks this quarter, said Plus.
The company recently hired Dennis Mooney from Navistar International Corp. and Chuck Joseph from Amazon.com Inc. to help scale up production and promote the adoption of its technology.
Startups keep on trucking
Plus is among a number of startups trying to upend a fragmented long-haul trucking business with driverless technology. Other companies working on autonomous freight hauling include Waymo, Kodiak Robotics, Einride, and TuSimple.
In June 2020, Amazon agreed to pay over $1 billion to buy self-driving startup Zoox Inc. as part of the e-commerce giant's efforts to reduce transportation costs by investing in autonomous vehicle technology.
Plus has been working with Chinese delivery company SF Holding Co., which uses PlusDrive-enabled trucks that can cover 1,500 km (932 mi.) per day.
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