Ready to Roll: Plus’s automated driving product, PlusDrive, makes trucks safer, reduce bottom line costs, and keeps drivers happier in their jobs
Driverless technology is maturing, and companies competing in the autonomous trucking market are moving beyond research and development to focus on getting their product to market.
Plus, an autonomous trucking technology developer, is ahead of the pack. Last year the Cupertino, California-based company became the first self-driving trucking startup to deliver a commercial product to the hands of customers.
Plus is now shipping units of its first product – a driver-in solution, PlusDrive – to fleets and truck manufacturers. The system can be integrated with heavy-duty trucks on the factory floor or added to existing trucks.
PlusDrive’s commercial-ready status means drivers and fleets can take advantage of the system’s operational and driver comfort benefits now, and not wait years until fully driverless trucks are available.
“To address today’s supply chain crunch, one solution all fleets should consider is equipping their trucks with automated driving technology like PlusDrive. Not only does PlusDrive make long-haul trucking safer and more fuel efficient, drivers tell us time and time again that they enjoy the ease of use and peace of mind and feel less tired from driving one of our automated trucks. And most importantly, this is a solution that we are already delivering to customers,” said Shawn Kerrigan, Plus co-founder and COO.
How a driver-centric autonomous trucking system works
Jason Cannon, chief editor of Commercial Carrier Journal, recently put his Commercial Driver’s License to use and took PlusDrive for a spin and was left quite impressed. He wrote: “I found PlusDrive a valuable piece of driver comfort (less physical and mental fatigue) and can see it as a tool that drives right to the bottom line via increased fuel economy (Plus claims there’s a 10% benefit), improved overall safety, and possibly recruitment and retention. PlusDrive, in my experience, isn’t a Big Brother safety suite. It’s more a Little Brother in that it always defers to its big brother – the human driver.”
The PlusDrive system features cutting-edge software and hardware that work together to help improve the driving experience and make the road safer for all users.
A suite of cameras, radar, and lidar sensors provides a long-range 360-degree view of a truck’s surroundings. These images stream into the system’s so-called “deep neural networks,” which process the data, select the optimal driving behavior and turn it into steering, brake and throttle controls for the truck. (The system functions at mind-boggling speed, performing 30 trillion operations per second.)
With PlusDrive, professional drivers stay behind the wheel and retain control of the vehicle. While the operator needs to remain attentive, they can activate PlusDrive at any time, enabling the vehicle to drive automatically in all traffic conditions on the highway.
Intelligent, safety-conscious and alert
Designed for long-haul trucking, PlusDrive relieves drivers of some of their most stressful tasks. As the truck travels down the highway, the system constantly tracks the surrounding roadway, including lane markings, free space, barriers and cones, ensuring the vehicle remains safely centered in its lane.
In the event of a traffic jam, PlusDrive automatically adjusts to maintain a safe distance from the vehicle ahead and will bring the truck to a full stop and then restart the vehicle as traffic allows.
PlusDrive can also handle merging traffic, whether it’s traffic merging from an onramp or two highways converging. During the merge, PlusDrive will automatically slow down or maintain its speed according to traffic conditions.
At the request of the operator, PlusDrive can overtake a vehicle. It can come to a slow stop when there is enough time. But if the sensors on the truck detect a possible forward collision, the truck can also perform an emergency stop.
“When I’m on the highway, PlusDrive does the driving for me,” said Gustavo Martinez, a safety driver for Plus. “It’s like having a smart and safety-conscious assistant in the vehicle working side-by-side with me. I still stay alert and supervise just in case I need to take over.”
Fuel-efficient and operator-friendly
Fuel efficiency is another important benefit of PlusDrive. The system automatically optimizes for the most fuel-efficient driving, improving fuel savings by at least 10%, according to pilot studies.
A user-friendly interface allows drivers to view the controls and system information on an easy-to-read screen. A red “ready” button flashes when the system is ready to be activated. Drivers can easily take control of the vehicle by steering or tapping the brakes.
Over-the-air software updates continually optimize PlusDrive’s capabilities, expanding the range of conditions under which it can drive safely while improving efficiency and driver comfort.
Ready to roll
Some of the world’s top fleets and manufacturers have already installed PlusDrive on their heavy-duty trucks.
As supply chain disruptions put more pressure than ever on truck drivers, operators are thankful for a system that can help them take a load off.
“Knowing PlusDrive can see 360 degrees around the vehicle gives me peace of mind,” said Michael Crystal, who worked for over 20 years as a career truck driver and owner operator before joining Plus in 2019. “It’s easy to use and makes driving a truck less stressful, especially during traffic jams.”
This article was originally published by FreightWaves: https://www.freightwaves.com/news/ready-to-roll-plus-automated-driving-product.