Plus Displays Next-Generation Safety Solution at 2023 ACT Expo
Plus’s partnership with Bosch will deliver L2++ driver assistance and partially automated features to commercial vehicles
Plus showcased its next-gen highly automated driving product during the recent Advanced Clean Transportation (ACT) Expo, where a record 11,000 attendees had the opportunity to learn – and experience first hand – how the company is advancing autonomous driving technology while making trucking safer, more efficient and more comfortable for operators today.
PlusDrive, as the driver assistance product is called, is a commercially available Level 2++ solution that is enabled by the Plus Open Autonomy Software Platform and bridges the gap between traditional Level 2 and fully autonomous systems, said Plus COO Shawn Kerrigan, speaking during an ACT panel discussion titled “Developments in Piloting and Scaling Commercial Autonomous Vehicles.”
One of the distinguishing features is a 360-degree surround perception system that has the same capabilities of a robust Level 4 technology, Kerrigan said. The system tracks vehicles – sometimes hundreds of meters down the road – and makes adjustments in steering, accelerating, and braking accordingly.
“That predictive capability makes all the difference in terms of safety,” said Kerrigan. Equally important: PlusDrive allows fleets to benefit from autonomous features now and not years in the future when the technology is proven through data that it is safe enough to operate without a human driver.
Integrating PlusDrive into Bosch steering system
Held May 1-4 in Anaheim, California, the annual ACT Expo is the nation’s premier clean fleet and technology conference. This year’s event featured 185 advanced vehicles, solutions, and technologies, along with dozens of expert-led educational sessions and keynotes.
ACT Expo has become an important showcase of transformative technologies for the commercial vehicles industry including electrification and autonomy. About a dozen attendees took invitation-only demo rides on PlusDrive-equipped trucks traveling a 22-mile segment of I-5. Another PlusDrive-equipped truck was on display in the exhibition hall.
During the conference, Plus announced a technology agreement with Bosch, one of the world’s largest leading automotive suppliers. The collaboration will combine the PlusDrive driver-in solution with Bosch’s integrated steering system featuring hardware and software. Together, the two companies will deliver driver assistance and partially automated features to commercial vehicles. Given Bosch’s global scale and deep experience as a system integrator for OEMs around the world, a collaboration between Plus and Bosch will help further scale the commercialization of PlusDrive.
“That will be a game changer,” said Kevin Chronicle, Head of Sales & Marketing - Commercial Vehicle & New EV Customers, Automotive Steering of Bosch. “We see that there’s a huge demand in the market for this Level 2++ system that Plus can deliver. Once drivers get their hands on it, they do not want to go back. So we feel really strongly that this market is growing exponentially, and we have the right technology to play in that space.”
Partnerships, market demand, accelerate PlusDrive commercial deployment
The Bosch partnership is the latest collaboration between Plus and leading OEMs, Tier 1s, and fleet customers around the world. One of the world’s largest fleets is using PlusDrive-enabled trucks to deliver commercial freight across the country today. In February electric truck maker Nikola announced that it is equipping its electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles with PlusDrive will come standard factory-installed, with series production to start in 2024.
Also in February, Plus and IVECO, the commercial vehicle brand of Iveco Group, started public road testing of their jointly developed next-generation highly automated trucks in Germany.
These partnerships validate the Plus approach to deploying autonomous vehicles and demonstrate market demand for PlusDrive safety, driver comfort and efficiency benefits.
The system’s partially automated capabilities include traffic jam assist, merge handling, driver initiated and suggested lane change, over-the-air updates, lane nudge, sensor self-calibration and driver attentiveness detection. Drivers stay behind the wheel to monitor and supervise the system.
Collectively these features reduce driver stress, improving retention and recruitment in a time of driver shortages, Kerrigan said. Additionally, trucks equipped with the PlusDrive show about a 10% improvement in terms of fuel economy with combustion engine vehicles – as well as electric vehicles.
“This is a really interesting application because of the impact of regenerative braking,” he said. “The system can optimally apply regenerative braking, which is something that drivers need to learn. This translates then to range extension for electrified vehicles.”
PlusDrive builds safety case for full autonomy
In addition to delivering value to fleets, putting PlusDrive-equipped trucks on the road today is an essential part of Plus’s long-term technology development strategy.
Plus is taking a progressive approach to automating commercial vehicles, deploying its Level 2++ system now in order to collect the data and experiences necessary to safely deploy fully driverless vehicles in the future, Kerrigan said.
Asked during the panel discussion when trucks will travel down the road without a driver and what additional advances in technology are necessary before we can get to that point, Kerrigan said: “The key prerequisite is to be confident that the system will safely handle whatever may happen out there on the road.”
“That’s why the progressive approach is so important. If you deploy this on trucks with drivers in today, you can actually capture that data on a broad scale and collect the data to prove the safety of the system.”