- California-based autonomous trucking company Plus.ai completed its first Level 4 (L4) autonomous coast-to-coast delivery, according to a press release emailed to Supply Chain Dive. The vehicle completed the 2,800-mile journey in under three days carrying a refrigerated truckload of Land O' Lakes butter from a distribution hub in Tulare, California to a hub in Quakertown, Pennsylvania.
- L4 autonomous vehicles have sufficient technical capabilities to navigate a range of road conditions without a driver. However, for Pulse.ai's pilot, a licensed driver and safety engineer were on board at all times to fulfill legal requirements for operating autonomous vehicles on public roads.
- "End of the year is a very busy time for us," Yone Dewberry, chief supply chain officer at Land O’Lakes, said in a statement. "To be able to address this peak demand with a fuel- and cost-effective freight transport solution will be tremendously valuable to our business."
The pilot run saw the truck navigate a variety of terrain, traffic and weather conditions during the day and at night. To comply with hours of service (HOS) requirements, Shawn Kerrigan, COO and co-founder of Plus.ai, told Supply Chain Dive that the truck driver took over when getting off the highway for rest stops and breaks, otherwise, he said the journey was completed autonomously.
"[It] shows the safety, efficiency and maturity of our autonomous trucks, which are already delivering freight for other partners several days a week," Kerrigan said in the release. "Continued advances in our autonomous trucks will make it possible for these quick cross-country runs to be the norm in the future."
The company has run smaller-scale pilots across the U.S. and has operations underway in Beijing and Shanghai, China, Kerrigan said.
The delivery for Land O' Lakes is the first where Plus.ai has been able to disclose companies involved. Kerrigan said he was unable to confirm whether Plus.ai would run similar deliveries for Land O' Lakes. He said the trip allowed Plus.ai to collect data on driving conditions, including rain and snow, which is crucial to ensuring the technology is safe for mainstream use.
TuSimple, another autonomous trucking company, is planning to run fully autonomous commercial freight deliveries in 2021. The company's trucks also run at L4 autonomy, and completed pilots delivering cargo for UPS and the U.S. Postal Service in Arizona this year.
Amazon, Google and other major companies have explored using autonomous trucks to speed up delivery times, address the driver shortage, or potentially phase out drivers.