Plus.ai, a leading provider of self-driving trucking technology, announced a partnership with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), marking the agency’s first partnership with an autonomous trucking company to test on MnDOT’s MnROAD cold-weather pavement testing facility.
The partnership will include information sharing between Plus.ai and MnDOT around self-driving truck performance in the toughest winter conditions, in order to inform public policy discussions.
“Commercialising Plus.ai’s self-driving trucks requires preparing them to drive in all climates, including the toughest winter road conditions that Minnesota experiences. We are thrilled with this public-private partnership with the Minnesota Department of Transportation to test and harden our autonomous trucks for extreme weather, as well as to support public policy and infrastructure considerations that pave the way for self-driving trucks,” said Shawn Kerrigan, COO and Co-Founder, Plus.ai.
“As automation and emerging transportation technology evolve, the Minnesota Department of Transportation understands how critical it is to collaboratively share information and expertise with partners like Plus.ai. Learning how these vehicles operate in winter weather helps Minnesota advance safety innovation for everyone in the transportation system,” said Kristin White, Executive Director of MnDOT’s Office of Connected and Automated Vehicles.
A key benefit driving autonomous truck development is increased safety. Large truck fatalities in the US rose to an all-time high of 4,761 fatalities in 2017. In 2018, Minnesota saw 4,623 truck-involved crashes, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. Winter weather is particularly challenging: Snowy, slushy or icy winter road conditions are responsible for vehicle accidents that kill over 1,300 people and injure more than 116,800 people every year, according to the US Department of Transportation. More than 70% of US roads are located in regions that experience snow.
Testing will allow Plus.ai to better understand how winter conditions affect the movement of its trucks. Winter conditions are tough to handle for all vehicles, and snow is particularly challenging for trucks, which can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. The testing will begin with mapping the MnROAD closed test track, followed by rigorous performance testing of Plus.ai’s self-driving trucks.