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Plus Commits To Ouster’s Digital LiDAR For Autonomous Trucks Posted on : Feb 23 - 2021

We have come a long way since the 2008 DARPA Grand Challenge ignited intense public and corporate interest in autonomous cars. The decade after has seen significant investments and technological progress in autonomous vehicle technology, the underlying sensing technologies like LiDAR, cameras, radar, and GNSS that make it possible, and exponential advances in computing power and artificial intelligence.

The original focus of the Grand Challenge was for the autonomy of cars (the underlying objective was autonomous military vehicles). Later efforts by Google GOOG -1.2% (and Waymo), Zoox, GM-Cruise, Uber UBER -1.4%, Aurora, and others continued the focus on autonomous cars for personal transportation. However, many in the trucking business realized the potential of autonomous trucking for solving issues like fuel efficiency, safety, driver health, capital efficiency, and cost savings. Ever since Otto (later acquired by Uber) made the first autonomous trucking run on a Colorado highway to transport cans of beer, significant financial investments have been made in the trucking autonomy space. In general, autonomous trucking seeks to operate on the highway with well-mapped routes, without the complexity of urban traffic, pedestrians, and dense traffic. LiDAR is a critical part of the perception and mapping sensing suite and has location, mounting, performance, and reliability requirements that are unique to large Class 8 trucks.

Plus, a leading autonomous trucking company recently announced an initial  LiDAR order (2000 units) with Ouster.  Higher volumes are planned as it equips thousands of trucks with its ADS (Autonomous Driving System) for deployments across the United States, China, and Europe over the next 5 years. Ouster’s LiDAR is an important part of the ADS. To date, this is the largest public announcement of a LiDAR purchase in the trucking space and signals the maturity of autonomous trucking and LiDAR technology.

Plus was founded in 2016 and recently raised $200M in additional funding (since inception, the company has raised close to $400M). It has strong relationships with truck manufacturers and logistics players in China and the United States and has been testing its ADS hardware and software stacks with these partners over the past 3 years. The success of these trials has resulted in significant demand for the ADS product. According to Shawn Kerrigan, COO, and co-founder: “It is exciting for Plus to move beyond trials into actual deployments on a large scale across diverse geographies now”. Level 4 ADS products will be deployed starting this year (Level 4 autonomy implies complete autonomy within specific ODDs or Operational Design Domains) with human drivers on board (supervised Level 4). Supervised L4 ADS delivers immediate benefits in terms of reducing driver fatigue and improving driver retention and safety. It also creates economic benefits in the form of significant fuel savings.  Mr. Kerrigan states that “fuel consumption can vary by about 30% across different drivers, and Plus’s supervised L4 solution can improve this on average by 15% by using optimal speeds, lane changes, and braking maneuvers”.  Deployment at scale is also important since it generates revenues, provides product experience, and enables Plus to collect billions of miles of driving experience and mapping data across diverse ODDs. This provides a graceful bridge to a transition to unsupervised L4 operation in the future. View More