Ride And Drives of Plus’s Commercially Available Autonomous Trucking Product Draw Enthusiastic Response at ATA MCE 2021 in Nashville

CUPERTINO, December 6, 2021

Stormy weather and route closures showcased the reliability and versatility of Plus’s autonomous trucking technology to make long-haul trucking easier and safer

Plus’s autonomy-enabled big rigs wowed industry executives and journalists attending ATA MCE 2021 in Nashville, where Plus was the only company to host a ride and drive.

“It was a singular unique opportunity to be the only company providing demonstration rides at ATA’s management conference and exhibition,” said Wiley Deck, Plus’s vice president for government affairs. “We couldn’t have picked a better venue to showcase our product to some of the top fleets in the country.”

The event attracted nearly 3,000 attendees, and featured 200-plus exhibitors, guest speakers from senior transportation officials and trucking executives as well as dozens of breakout education sessions, policy committees and meetings.

The demo rides showcased PlusDrive, a commercially available driver-in autonomous driving product that is already being delivered to customers today. PlusDrive is a governed application of Plus’s Level 4 autonomous driving technology where a driver remains behind the wheel to monitor the system.

Peter Rentschler, CEO of CarrierDirect, was one of over a dozen conference attendees who got a test ride. Drawing a contrast between PlusDrive and his Tesla Model Y, Rentschler said: “The functionality they [Plus] have...is actually better than the functionality I have in my Tesla...It’s pretty incredible to see.”

Ready to hit the road, anywhere

Few autonomous trucking companies have the capability of hosting demos in a new city – with virtually no advance preparation, and without a technician or engineer in the vehicle.

The Plus team arrived in Nashville only two days ahead of the conference start date to identify a route that highlighted the system’s capabilities. No advanced mapping or training of the system for this specific route was required.

That Plus was able to execute so quickly on a public ride and drive demonstrated the readiness, maturity, and performance of PlusDrive, which is designed to safely handle highway driving in all traffic conditions.

Starting at the conference center hotel in downtown Nashville, the 30-mile (roundtrip) route traversed a few city streets before turning on to the interstate highway. The trips took between 45 and 90 minutes, long enough for riders to experience the breadth of PlusDrive capabilities.

PlusDrive is designed to make long-haul trucking safer, more fuel efficient and more comfortable for the driver. Professional drivers retain control of the vehicle at all times, and have the option to engage the system to drive on the highway in all traffic conditions, keep the vehicle centered in its lane, make lane changes and handle merging traffic.

PlusDrive was engaged on the freeway portion of the demo, demonstrating the system’s performance at 70 miles per hour and transitioning smoothly from 55 to 65 and 70 miles per hour – and back. And during heavy traffic, PlusDrive automatically kept the truck centered in its lane, and came to a full stop and restarting when needed.

Neither rain nor traffic, nor road closures…

Unexpected road and weather conditions further underscored PlusDrive capabilities.

During several of the demos, the Plus truck encountered high winds, rain and NFL- football game traffic. The system performed flawlessly, throughout.

“We had drivers weaving in and out of traffic, cutting us off,” said Deck. When a tractor-trailer cut out of its lane directly in front of the Plus truck, the autonomous driving system immediately slowed down, accommodating the tractor-trailer without any incident.

“You can’t show me any truck driver who would have let people in front of them and their lane,” Deck said. “PlusDrive is one of the most courteous drivers out there.”

At one point, a section of the demo route was closed off by law enforcement, forcing the truck to reroute, in real time.

“We were able to make the change instantly, driving a route that we had not travelled before and demonstrating the versatility of PlusDrive,” Wiley said. “The challenges we faced were an amazing selling point for our product.”

Some of the conference attendees were skeptical of the system’s capabilities as they climbed on board, Wiley added. “But by the time the ride was over they were grinning ear to ear, saying, ‘that was amazing.’”

After receiving training from a Plus vehicle specialist, one journalist with a CDL drove the PlusDrive-enabled truck himself, accompanied by a Plus truck operator.

Transforming long-haul trucking, now

Participants noted PlusDrive’s positive impact on driver hiring. The supervised autonomous system functions essentially as a digital driving assistant, easing driver exhaustion on long-haul routes and upskilling drivers in preparation for an autonomous future.

“What I think is interesting about what Plus is doing…[is] it can be a differentiator for driver recruiting,” said Rentschler.

Due to regulatory challenges, fully autonomous driving (with no safety driver) is likely years away. PlusDrive is available now, providing fleets with immediate fuel efficiency and driver comfort benefits.

“I think that’s transformational,” Rentschler said.


This article was originally published by Transport Topics. For all of your trucking and freight transportation news, be sure to visit ttnews.com.