Plus.ai, a Silicon Valley start-up, announced on December 10th that they successfully delivered their first payload that traveled across the entire North American continent autonomously, a journey of 4,500 kilometers between California and Pennsylvania that took almost three days. Reportedly, a safety driver was present behind the wheel at all times, although the whole trip was completed without a single “disengagement” (when the autonomous system is disabled because of some problem and the human driver has to step in).
The feat of completing a cross-continent trip with an autonomous truck was actually completed already last year by San Francisco-based Embark Trucks, although that truck didn’t carry any freight.
Simultaneously, Swedish autonomous truck start-up Einride has secured a new partner in their bid to start commercial pilot testing on Swedish roads; Coca-Cola European Partners, which is the official European branch of the company . Einride will start to deliver goods for the company with its driverless and electric pod vehicles in the next few years, hoping to start already in 2020, however, this will depend on approval from authorities since the pilot is going to take place on public roads. For Coca-Cola, this partnership is a step towards reducing its carbon footprint, as the Einride delivery system can allegedly reduce CO2 emissions by as much as 90% compared to existing fossil-based solutions.
It is becoming obvious that the technology behind autonomous trucking is continuously reaching milestones and edging closer to fully self-driving or driverless solutions each day. With that said, there is a risk that the step onto the market and public roads will be a slow and tedious one since it is controlled by public authorities and the regulations that they will set in place for this technology in the future. Especially in the cases of long-haul freight that spans several states or countries, there will be a challenging legal case to operate if there is no standardized regulation put in place over large geographical distances.
Written by Darijan Jelica, RISE Viktoria.