The Fuse

This Week In AVs: Plus.ai Completes Cross-Country Freight Delivery; Walmart and Nuro Partner in Houston; and More

by Alex Adams | @alexjhadams | December 16, 2019

Plus.ai Completes First Autonomous Commercial Cross-Country Freight Delivery
Silicon Valley startup plus.ai has completed what is believed to be the first cross-country freight delivery by an autonomous truck, shifting 40,000 pounds of butter for Land O’Lakes from California to Pennsylvania. The 2,800-mile trip, from Tulare, California to Quakertown, Pennsylvania along interstates 15 and 70 just before Thanksgiving, took three days. Making the announcement on Tuesday, plus.ai stated that a safety driver was aboard and ready to take over if needed, along with a safety engineer. The company reported zero disengagements from self-driving mode.

“We wanted to demonstrate the safety, reliability and maturity of our overall system,” said Shawn Kerrigan, co-founder and chief operating officer of the company, with Land O’Lakes chief supply officer Yone Dewberry adding that addressing peak year-end butter demand “with a fuel- and cost-effective freight transport solution will be tremendously valuable to our business.”

Walmart And Nuro To Test AV Grocery Delivery In Houston
On Tuesday, Walmart announced it was partnering with self-driving startup Nuro to trial autonomous grocery deliveries in Houston, Texas to learn more about how autonomous grocery delivery can work—and how the service can be improved to suit Walmart shoppers. The trial, starting next year, plans to use Nuro’s custom-built R2 delivery vehicle that carries only goods with no on-board drivers or passengers, in addition to its fleet of self-driving Toyota Priuses which Nuro has been using in Houston since March.

The partnership is the latest in a series of self-driving trials for both companies. Nuro launched a pilot program with Kroger in 2018 to deliver groceries from a Kroger-owned Fry’s store in Scottsdale, Arizona. Similarly, Walmart partnered with startup Udelv in January to test autonomous grocery deliveries in Surprise, Arizona. Walmart has also joined forces last year with Waymo for a pilot in Arizona that brought riders to Walmart when their groceries were ready for pickup, and teamed up with Ford and Postmates in November 2018 to test food and grocery deliveries in Miami-Dade County.

Mercedes And Bosch Announce AV Taxi Trial
Mercedes-Benz and tier 1 auto supplier Bosch are bringing autonomous S-Class vehicles to San Jose, California for a self-driving taxi trial the two companies hope will provide additional insights for the development of automated driving. The vehicles will run on fixed routes between West San Jose and the city’s downtown area, the companies announced on Monday.

Beyond the testing of their AV technologies, the companies hope to gain greater understanding for how automated taxi services and self-driving in general will fit into a multi-modal urban transportation network. “It’s not just the automated vehicles that have to prove their mettle. We also need proof that they can fit in as a piece of the urban mobility puzzle. We can test both these things in San José,” says Dr. Uwe Keller, head of autonomous driving at Mercedes-Benz.

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