Plus.ai, a California based automated trucking company, is the first autonomous trucking company registered to test in Ohio. The company registered with DriveOhio in advance of making a revenue-service shipping run in their SAE level four automated truck for Land O’Lakes Inc.
Traveling on Interstates 15 and 70, the journey began in Tulare, CA and concluded in Quakertown, PA. Adhering to a safety-first approach, Plus.ai had one safety driver and one operations specialist systems engineer on board the truck during the trip that took place right before Thanksgiving.
On the heels of their January testing announcement at CES in Las Vegas, DriveOhio had the chance to speak with Shawn Kerrigan, COO and co-founder of Plus.ai. Here is the conversation:
DriveOhio: Shawn, thank you for taking the time to chat with DriveOhio. Again, congratulations on your announcement and your cross-country trip.
At DriveOhio we believe connected and automated vehicle technology will make our roads safer. What is Plus.ai’s safety philosophy?
Shawn Kerrigan: Safety is a top priority for Plus.ai. Achieving safety comes down to careful design and engineering, followed by extensive testing. During all on-road testing and validation, we operate with both a safety driver and a vehicle operation specialist in the passenger seat, to ensure safe operation.
DriveOhio: How did you get into the automated trucking business?
Shawn Kerrigan: We saw early on that autonomous trucks would be the first autonomous vehicles to commercialize. The business case is very clear, in terms of the readiness of the technology, and the ability to improve transportation safety and fuel efficiency by using self-driving trucks.
DriveOhio: How does self-driving technology work?
Shawn Kerrigan: Our trucks are equipped with the best-in-class lidar, radar and camera sensors that help our trucks "see" up to one mile ahead. Using deep learning technology and advanced perception, planning, and control systems, our system monitors the surrounding environment and safely navigates the roadway.
DriveOhio: What's the number one question you've been fielding at CES?
Shawn Kerrigan: One of the most common questions we get is “when will autonomous trucks be ready, and what do you need to do to get there?”
While we believe trucks will be among the first autonomous vehicles to be commercialized, there are still several years to go before that happens. In order for the trucks to be fully ready, we need to carefully engineer them, and then test them extensively. This extensive testing is part of the reason we recently announced plans to drive all highways where autonomous trucks are permitted in 2020.
DriveOhio: How can we improve public outreach and education around autonomous vehicles?
Shawn Kerrigan: We find that many people are very curious about autonomous trucks. It's important to help people understand how these autonomous trucks work, the safety-first approach that we and others in the industry take, and the overall benefits that these trucks offer so that the public feels comfortable with these trucks on the road.
DriveOhio: What lessons did you learn from the trip?
Shawn Kerrigan: The cross-country trip was a great demonstration of the safety, reliability and maturity of our autonomous system. We chose a more northern route in the winter time to show the different terrain, elevation and weather conditions our self-driving trucks can handle. With all the data from this trip, we have been able to further refine the performance of our autonomous system.
DriveOhio: What are Plus.ai’s goals for 2020?
Shawn Kerrigan: We just announced at CES that we will be expanding our testing from the 17 states that we've already done to all permissible continental states in the U.S. by the end of 2020. We're excited about this effort, and we'll of course continue our technology development and ongoing pilot freight runs for top shippers.
Again, thank you for your time, Shawn. Also, DriveOhio would like to extend a thank you to the entire Plus.ai team. For more coverage of the “Smart Mobility” sector, please visit DriveOhio on the web and follow us on social media.