Plus to Conduct Supervised Autonomous Truck Pilot in China for SF Express

Long-haul logistics pilot has had no safety disengagements in more than 62,000 miles of operation.

Plus, formerly, said its pilot with SF Express in China has demonstrated improvements in safety, operator comfort, and fuel efficiency.

Plus this week announced that SF Express has chosen it for what it described as China's first commercial freight pilot with supervised autonomous trucks. As part of the ongoing pilot, Plus is running its autonomous trucks on two long-haul routes—900 miles round trip between Wuhan and Wuxi and 1,000 miles round trip between Changshu and Wuhan.

Cupertino, Calif.-based Plus, formerly, was founded in 2016 by a group of serial entrepreneurs and industry veterans, each with more than 20 years of experience in high tech and artificial intelligence. The company said it has developed full-stack, self-driving technology to enable large-scale autonomous commercial transport. Plus is working with leading truck manufacturers, shippers, and fleet operators to begin mass production of its automated driving system.

SF Express, in partnership with Plus and fleet operator Zhihong Logistics, started the pilot in December 2020. The company, regarded as “China's UPS,” operates its own fleet of 43,000 trucks and covers more than 100,000 routes. SF Express has been working to apply technology innovations to bring efficiencies to the highly competitive logistics business.

Plus pilots autonomous trucks to improve logistics

PlusDrive is designed to keep a professional truck operator in the vehicle to supervise the autonomous driving system, according to Plus. This approach allows SF Express to optimize the efficiency of its current fleet and not wait years for full driverless trucks to be ready, it said.

“The logistics industry around the world is undergoing a sea change driven by the explosive growth of e-commerce and demand for faster deliveries,” stated Shawn Kerrigan, co-founder and chief operating officer Plus. “We developed PlusDrive to address the critical business issues fleets are facing today — keeping their drivers happy and productive, reducing operating costs, and meeting sustainability goals.”

The two long-haul routes for the pilot, each of which take two to three days to complete round-trip, were chosen for Plus to demonstrate the full potential of PlusDrive to improve safety, reduce fuel cost, enhance driver comfort, and lower carbon emissions.

Plus said it has operated over 100,000 km (over 62,000 mi.) autonomously with no safety-related disengagements since the pilot began. The company also claimed that the trips have yielded 20% fuel savings and that operators have reported improved peace of mind.

“Opportunities to pilot our system with world-class fleets like SF Express enable us to demonstrate the safety, reliability and maturity of PlusDrive,” Kerrigan said. “We are excited to start mass production in just a few short months and to deliver this truly transformational technology to fleets.”

Plus said the results from the SF Express pilot, in terms of fuel savings, enhanced safety, and positive driver feedback, are similar to those from pilots it has conducted for other large, long-haul fleets. Early pilot partners have pre-ordered over 10,000 units of PlusDrive.

The company asserted that logistics fleets can adopt PlusDrive today to make their trucks safer, optimize fuel economy, and keep truck operators more comfortable. Over the next few years, Plus said it expects to enable tens of thousands of autonomous heavy trucks in the U.S., China, and Europe.

Plus explains how it is bringing self-driving trucks to market.

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