California-based self-driving truck technology provider Plus reached a milestone this week with the successful completion of a driverless Level 4 truck demonstration on a China highway, the company said Thursday. The demo was run completely autonomously, without a safety driver, teleoperator, or any other form of human intervention, according to company leaders.
The demonstration took place on the Wufengshan highway in China’s Yangtze Delta region. It was conducted with a special permit on the newly built highway, company leaders said, adding that Plus was the first company to be granted such a permit in China. During the demonstration, the driverless truck drove safely and smoothly in typical highway traffic, the company also said.
“The driverless demo highlights the ability of our Level 4 autonomous driving technology to enable driverless highway operations in a semi truck. The demo shows the safety, maturity, and functionality of our technology, and we are excited to continue to work closely with our suppliers, fleet customers, and OEM partners to further develop, test, and refine a driverless product for commercial deployment,” Shawn Kerrigan, COO and co-founder of Plus, said in a statement.
Plus said it expects to launch pilot operations of a fully driverless truck for use in a dedicated environment in 2022.
The company is also applying the Level 4 technology—which doesn’t require human intervention under certain conditions—to deploy a commercial driver-in product for semi trucks called PlusDrive. PlusDrive can either be a standard configuration of newly built trucks or added to existing trucks to help make long-haul trucking safer, more efficient, more comfortable, and better for the environment, according to the company.
The first customer delivery of PlusDrive started in February 2021 and mass production of the FAW J7 L3 truck powered by PlusDrive is expected to start in the third quarter of 2021.