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Self-Driving Truck Drove Across the US to Deliver Butter, All on Its Own

A semi-trailer truck hauling 40,000 pounds of Land O’Lakes butter has made history by becoming the first-ever autonomous freight truck to drive across the U.S. to make a delivery. Other attempts have been recorded so far, but the trucks did not carry any loads.
Plus.ai self-driving truck delivered butter across the U.S. in 3 days without disengagement 7 photos
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Plus.ai is a Silicon Valley startup working on driverless technology, and they partnered with Land O’Lakes for this historic first. Of course, the fact that Land O’Lakes really needed that load of butter hauled from California to Pennsylvania helped.

The journey started in Tulare, California and ended in Quakertown, Pennsylvania, covering 2,800 miles and 12 states in just 3 days, and tackling anything from various weather conditions to varied traffic situations, such as obstacles on the road or emergency vehicles. Plus.ai says the journey would have been shorter had it not been for the driver needing to take the mandatory breaks stipulated by the law. Yes, there was a driver in the truck all this time.

TechXplore notes that, while the truck did all the driving itself without any disengagement (which is what you call when a human operator needs to step in and take over from the machine, for whatever reason), there were 2 people inside the cabin at all times. One was a driver, sitting in the driver’s seat, ready to take the wheel in case of an emergency, and the other a system engineer, who monitored the status of the on-board computers, the sensors and cameras.

So, while the truck was in self-driving mode at all times, it is not yet driverless. Plus.ai is testing freight trucks for Level 4 Autonomy, and a fully autonomous vehicle is a Level 5. As company founder Shawn Kerrigan puts it, humanity still has some way to go until all goods are delivered by truly driverless trucks.

“We wanted to demonstrate the safety, reliability and maturity of our overall system,” Kerrigan, who is also chief operating officer of the company, says. The way he sees it, it will be “a few years out” until we have driverless trucks on the highways, delivering goods.

But Plus.ai has its foot through the door.



 
 
 
 
 

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