Popular Mechanics reports Self-Driving Freight Truck Just Drove Across the Country to Deliver Butter.

Plus.ai, an artificial intelligence startup in Cupertino, California, has engineered an autonomous driving system for commercial freight trucks. This week, it made the world's first cross-country trip of its kind to deliver butter to a small town in Pennsylvania.

Key Details

  1. The Plus Ai truck drove from 2,800 miles from Tulare, California to Quakertown, Pennsylvania, through tunnels, snow, toll booths, and mountains, without a backup safety driver ever taking control.
  2. The truck relied on Plus.ai's SLAM technology, which is an acronym for its instant positioning and map building solution. SLAM includes a suite of sensors like cameras, lidar and radar. What stands out is the company's data fusion system which combines this information to create a field of front detection that's over 1,600 meters deep, allowing the truck to see far ahead. Plus.ai also achieves a wide field of view to help the truck adapt to new road shapes and slopes.
  3. The truck was hauling a refrigerated cooler with 40,000 pounds of Land-O-Lakes butter onboard. This was a real delivery.
  4. This trip took place during the heavy traffic week of Thanksgiving, encompassed 12 states and some inclement conditions, including snow.

Adoption Timeframe

Despite this being 2019, I will still have readers telling me commercial operations won't be in place for a decade, that drivers are better, and for numerous reasons these deliveries can never work.

Once again, I expect to hear the same tired arguments about truck hijackings, mountains, balloons, weather, cities, etc.

My position is that within a couple years of Federal approval, mass adoption of autonomous will ramp up quickly, for point-to-point interstate driving.

Note that this delivery went to an actual final destination. But a driver will take over to make an inner-city delivery, if necessary.

Cost and Time

Haulers with drivers will not be able to compete on costs or time.

Read that line over and over until the message sinks in. Competition ensures mass adoption on an accelerated timeframe.

All we are waiting for is federal regulation.

Early adopters will come on within a year, then the rest of the industry will have to adopt or they will be soon be priced out by market forces.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock