California-based autonomous transport start-up Plus has carried out the first test of its kind for fully driverless trucks in China’s eastern province of Jiangsu. In addition, Plus has secured a deal with Amazon to provide at least 1,000 autonomous delivery vehicles to support the leading e-commerce firm in its long-haul logistics operations.
The test took place last week on the newly constructed Wufengshan Highway, the country’s first “future smart highway” to be opened to public traffic. Plus is the first autonomous driving firm to receive a permit to undergo driverless heavy truck testing in China.
Founded in 2016 by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, Plus aims to develop scalable, fully self-driving trucks to promote the widespread adoption of autonomous shipping technology.
The firm conducts research and development in China and has frequently carried out testing in the country. CEO and co-founder of Plus said of the recent Jiangsu tests, “I am very pleased that Zhijia [the Chinese name for Plus] is able to support the construction of the first future smart highway in China as an industry representative,” according to a press release.
This successful test comes as Plus also confirmed it has reached a deal with American e-commerce giant Amazon to supply at least 1,000 autonomous vehicles to support with delivery operations. The agreement signals that leading logistics service providers are increasingly taking steps to adopt AI-powered solutions to cut shipping costs and enhance efficiency.
Plus specializes in level 4 autonomous driving technology, such as the version tested in Jiangsu last week, in which the complete operation of the vehicle is conducted absent of any human interaction whatsoever, while still allowing for human intervention in the event of an emergency.
To develop its trucks, Plus integrates AI sensing technology manufactured by Nvidia, an American computer company that supplies a range of developers across the automotive, gaming and professional fields.
In May 2021, Plus entered a partnership with Hennessy Capital Investment Corp., making the company a publicly-traded entity in a transaction valued at $3.3 billion.