Truck drivers, industry leaders and fleet owners responded with enthusiasm to the highly automated driving solution PlusDrive, which was showcased at last week’s American Trucking Associations 2022 Management Conference & Exhibition (MCE), where self-driving technology company Plus offered ride-and-drives to showcase its… present pioneering commercially available product.
“The experience was unique,” said a truck driver, mentor and coach with 28 years of experience. He was initially reluctant to operate the PlusDrive-equipped truck, which features state-of-the-art software and hardware that work together to enhance the driving experience and make the road safer for all users.
“But after driving the truck, it was a great experience,” he said. “It wasn’t intrusive; It’s a great learning tool and it’s great for safety.”
The annual ATA MCE is one of the largest trucking events of the year, attracting thousands of the trucking industry’s top decision-makers for policy discussions, training, interactive exhibitions and networking opportunities.
Keynote speakers at this year’s event, held Oct. 22-25 in San Diego, included Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, speaking at the association’s Plus-sponsored board meeting, and Robin Hutcheson, the newly confirmed administrator of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg addresses attendees at the Plus-sponsored ATA board meeting
Buttigieg and Hutcheson updated MCE attendees on the agency’s infrastructure and safety investments, plans to expand truck parking, and workforce training and apprenticeship programs.
PlusDrive: Better for fleets, safer and more comfortable for drivers
The highly automated driving solution PlusDrive was developed for long-distance transport and makes truck journeys safer, more economical, more comfortable and more environmentally friendly.
With PlusDrive, professional drivers stay behind the wheel and maintain control of the vehicle. While the operator must remain alert, he can activate PlusDrive at any time, allowing the vehicle to drive automatically in all highway traffic conditions, including lane center maintenance, driver-initiated lane changes, and handling stop-and-go traffic.
Advanced PlusDrive features on display at MCE — where Plus was the only autonomous driving company to offer ridesharing — included suggested lane changes, hard shoulder vehicle handling and manual operator speed adjustments. In addition, PlusDrive brings fuel savings of 10% or more.
Highly automated truck with PlusDrive exhibited at MCE 2022
On the road with PlusDrive
Commercial vehicle decision makers were among the MCE attendees who attended the PlusDrive demos, which took place on a 20-mile stretch of I-5 I-15, I-805, I-8 and I-5 in San Diego. Five participants with commercial driving licenses (CDL) also test drove the truck themselves.
One of the drivers, Gary Martin, is a small business fleet owner and the 2019-2020 ATA America’s Road Team Captain, an honor bestowed on a small group of professional truck drivers with excellent safety records. After the test run, Martin said his favorite feature was the way PlusDrive handled bumper-to-bumper traffic.
“It literally comes to a complete stop, and then it accelerates, and then when the traffic slows down, it stops again. It keeps you at a good safe distance all the time.”
Compared to other advanced driver assistance systems, PlusDrive “obviously is more of an autonomous system than the collision mitigation system I use,” Martin added. “The ones we have are good in that they slow you down so you don’t bump into anyone, but the PlusDrive system prevents the driver from making mistakes. Other systems don’t accelerate or change lanes because, unlike PlusDrive, they use technology that is five or ten years old.”
Another driver, also a Road Team Captain, highlighted the safety benefits of PlusDrive.
“It checks your surroundings. If you miss something, it will matter. … and [tells] See if it’s clear to change lanes.”
PlusDrive technology for highly automated driving
Increase retention and recruitment
PlusDrive can be installed as part of the manufacturing process or retrofitted to existing trucks. Some of the largest fleets in the world have already installed PlusDrive units in their trucks and are currently operating them on public roads across the country.
As driver shortages continue to be a top concern for fleets, PlusDrive offers a compelling recruiting and retention tool for trucking companies, Plus executives said.
PlusDrive Driver-in, a highly automated driving system developed by drivers for drivers
“These trucks are commercially available today,” said Wiley Deck, Plus vice president of government affairs and public order, speaking at the Plus ATA MCE booth. The advanced PlusDrive driver-assistance system helps reduce driver fatigue and stress, Deck said, providing “better safety, fuel efficiency and a better ride for your drivers.”
Chuck Joseph, Plus vice president of strategic partnerships, said, “The number one concern for fleets is driver retention. Therefore, technologies that help drivers stay happy, productive and longer in their jobs are of great benefit. PlusDrive is an investment with a clear and quick ROI for any fleet.”
One of the Road Team Captains has already been sold. He recommends freight forwarders to deal intensively with the advantages of PlusDrive. “Hopefully we can integrate this system into our tractor units in the future.”