Nikola Corp.’s battery-electric and hydrogen-electric trucks will be the first trucks in the U.S. to add PlusDrive, a “next-generation safety system” developed by Plus.
The first Nikola Tre BEVs and hydrogen electric vehicles that will incorporate factory-installed enhanced driver assistance features powered by PlusDrive will be available by the end of 2024.
PlusDrive is a Level 2 autonomous system that goes beyond most driver-assistance capabilities currently on trucks. In addition to advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) such as lane keeping and automatic emergency braking, PlusDrive also handles everything from staying centered in the lane, lane changes, merges, stop-and-go traffic, and nudging, while the driver remains alert and attentive. New driving features are continuously added over-the-air without any additional truck downtime.
As HDT’s Jack Roberts observed after a drive of the PlusDrive system last fall, “the benefits and capabilities offered by [this] “mere” Level 2 autonomous system are astounding to experience first-hand. That’s because PlusDrive is designed to 100% help and support drivers.”
Michael Lohscheller, Nikola president and CEO, said the move is “another differentiator of Nikola’s premium driver experience for our customers.”
In addition, he said, Nikola is one of the first OEMs to offer 100% electric steering paired with the ZF EBS braking system.
“This base technology in all our vehicles, combined with Nikola’s own internally developed vehicle controls, over-the-air updates and vehicle security, can enable the integration of these advanced sensors and the realization of the PlusDrive safety system from Plus.”
Together with Nikola’s base technology, PlusDrive will moderate and predict the optimal and safest speed, while also taking full advantage of regenerative braking in traffic and slowing conditions. The vehicle is expected to keep the best position within the lane and account for other large vehicles and emergency vehicles.
With PlusDrive, the Nikola Tre BEVs and hydrogen electric vehicles will come with incident detection capabilities via the multiple cameras to be used together with short-range radar, and Lidar. The advanced sensor suite will assist the driver to safely interact with other drivers and provide additional protection for liability mitigation.
The PlusDrive system only operates on the highway. When not on the highway, the Nikola Tre BEV and hydrogen-electric vehicles will maintain the ability to detect obstacles and traffic in the blind spots. Other traffic, including motorcycles and pedestrians, will continue to be highlighted to provide drivers with their proximity information. The system will work in all traffic conditions, including loading docks.
Nikola points out that pedestrian safety around the trucks is especially important with these quieter zero-emissions vehicles. The system will highlight pedestrians around the vehicle to help ensure safety of typical operations including loading and unloading, inspections, and charging and fueling. Safe operation during high-power charging and hydrogen fueling will also be supplemented with detection and recording features.
Multiple fleets, including PGT Trucking and Christenson Transportation, have agreed to pilot the initial Nikola PlusDrive-enabled trucks when they become available in late 2023. Given the overwhelming fleet interest in the system, Nikola is establishing an Enhanced Driver Assistance Customer Council to collaborate with fleets and Plus to continue refining the system.
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