A Silicon Valley startup, Plus.ai, completed the first commercial freight cross-country trip with an autonomous truck, which finished a 2,800-mile-run from Tulare, California to Quakertown, Pennsylvania for Land O’Lakes in under three days. The truck was transporting 40,000 pounds of butter and according to Land O'Lakes, the end of the year is peak butter time.
The system uses cameras, radar and lidar — laser-based technology to help vehicles determine distance — and was able to handle different terrain and weather conditions such as rain and low visibility.
The truck, which traveled on I-15 and I-70 right before Thanksgiving, had to take scheduled breaks but drove mostly autonomously. There were zero "disengagements," or times the self-driving system had to be suspended because of a problem. A safety driver was aboard the autonomous semi, ready to take the wheel if needed, along with a safety engineer who observed how things were going.
Currently, about 10 to 15 companies nationwide are working on autonomous freight delivery, including San Francisco-based self-driving truck startup Embark Trucks, which last year completed a five-day, 2,400-mile cross-country trip, but that truck carried no freight.
An autonomous freight truck completed a 2,800 mile trip from Tulare, California to Quakertown, Pennsylvania in less than three days.