Autonomous Trucking Firm Plus to Enter SPAC Merger, be Valued at $3.3B

Plus plans to start mass production of its Level 4 software stack this year and expand testing in the U.S. and China.


Plus, which is working on Level 4 autonomy technology for trucks, is planning for its IPO.
Plus said its SPAC deal will provide $500 million in gross proceeds to help it accelerate commercialization of its autonomous truck technology and expand global operations.

Autonomous truck technology startup Plus, formerly known as, today said it will be merging with special-purpose acquisition company Hennessy Capital Investment Corp. V. Upon closure of the transaction, Plus said it expects to be a publicly traded company with a post-combination market capitalization of approximately $3.3 billion.

“All of us at Plus are inspired each day to help make heavy trucks safer and more comfortable, reduce operational costs for fleets, and make our world greener. We are on track to start mass production of autonomous trucks this year,” stated David Liu, co-founder and CEO of Plus. “This transaction enables Plus to continue growing our business globally, so that fleets and drivers can benefit from our revolutionary technology and usher in a new generation of innovation.”

The market opportunity for autonomous long-haul trucking is approximately $1.2 trillion for the U.S. and China, estimated Research and Markets. The total addressable global freight market is about $4 trillion, according to industry analysts. Other recent autonomous vehicle transactions include TuSimple's $1.1 billion initial public offering (IPO), Nuro's $500 million Series C, and Einride's $110 million Series B.

Plus said that its Supervised Level 4 (“SL4”) PlusDrive technology will accelerate the development of fully autonomous trucks. SL4 could increase a fleet operator’s gross profit per truck by 30% to 70%, the company said.

PlusDrive looks ahead

Serial entrepreneurs and industry veterans in automotive technology and artificial intelligence founded Plus in 2016. The Cupertino, Calif.-based company said its SAE Level 4 autonomous driving system will make long-haul trucking safer, more efficient, and more sustainable. Plus claimed that its proprietary algorithms can reduce fuel consumption by an estimated 10% to 20% in comparison with traditional trucks.

Plus said the following three pillars comprise its autonomous driving system:

  • Proprietary, full-stack “L4” software behind the decision-making required to autonomously, safely, and intelligently drive the vehicle
  • A mass-production-ready, low-cost, high-performance hardware platform that enables a truck to drive autonomously
  • A data engine that leverages real-world driving data to continuously upgrade algorithms and ultimately reach L4 autonomy

PlusDrive uses advanced sensing technologies, including radar, lidar, and cameras to provide a 360-degree sensing system. They gather data to identify nearby objects, predict the movement of those objects, and control the vehicle to make its next move safely.

Plus claimed that its multi-modal sensor system solves vibration and long-range camera drift problems. It can also address adverse weather and lighting for commercial deployment, said the company.

In addition, PlusDrive could reduce operating costs by approximately 38% and reduce carbon emissions by approximately 1.1 million tons between 2021 and 2024, Plus said. Its L4 system is also projected to improve asset utilization, increasing revenue per truck by 100%.

Plus partners toward production

In collaboration with Chinese heavy truck manufacturer FAW, Plus plans to begin mass production this year of the PlusDrive-powered FAW J7L3, which was jointly developed by Plus and FAW.

In the U.S., a large private truck fleet has chosen Plus to provide 1,000 autonomy-enabled trucks, and the company and has already started delivering its initial batch of PlusDrive-enabled retrofitted units.

In addition, Plus is working with IVECO, one of the top global truck manufacturers in the world, to jointly develop autonomous trucks that will be deployed across China, Europe, and other regions. 

The company noted that its proprietary software has been commercially validated by customers in the U.S. and China, and thousands of units have already been ordered or pre-ordered globally. Over time and through billions of real-world miles, Plus plans to collect the data required to demonstrate the safety of PlusDrive to be operated without a driver.

Plus said it expects to start generating revenue this year and that it plans to reach full autonomy with L4 trucks by the end of 2024.

SPAC deal details

Hennessy Capital Investment Corp. V (HCIC V) is a special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC) that raised $345 million in its IPO in January 2021 and is listed on the Nasdaq Capital Market. Daniel J. Hennessy founded HCIC V to pursue an initial business combination, with a specific focus on businesses in the sustainable industrial technology and infrastructure industries.

The proposed business combination has been unanimously approved by both Plus and HCIC V's boards of directors and is expected to close in the third quarter of 2021, subject to the satisfaction of the necessary regulatory approvals and customary closing conditions, including the approval of HCIC V’s shareholders.

The business combination is expected to deliver up to approximately $500 million in gross proceeds at closing, including about $345 million of cash held in HCIC V’s trust account from its IPO in January 2021, assuming no redemptions by HCIC V’s public stockholders.

The business combination is further supported by a fully committed common-stock private investment in public equity deals (PIPE) at $10.00 per share of $150 million, including investments from funds and accounts managed by BlackRock and the D.E. Shaw group, among other institutional investors.

Under the terms of the business combination, Plus’s existing shareholders will convert 100% of their ownership stakes into the combined company and are expected to own approximately 80% of the post-combination company at close.

“The transaction introduces a partner in HCIC V that shares our focus on sustainable technology and infrastructure, is aligned on our growth and value creation objectives, and recognizes the challenges trucking companies face today,” said Liu. Plus previously announced a total fundraising of $420 million in January.

“While we evaluated a number of potential partners, Plus stood out for its unique AI-powered autonomous trucking technology, its partnerships with OEMs and world-class customers, and its strategic roadmap to start the broad commercialization of its intelligent transportation solutions today,” said Hennessy.

Plus is an autonomous driving technology company headquartered in Silicon Valley and founded in 2016 by serial entrepreneurs and industry veterans who have extensive experience in automotive technology and artificial intelligence.

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Plus, which is working on Level 4 autonomy technology for trucks, is planning for its IPO.

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