Navistar will work with Plus to develop a fully integrated, warrantied and dealer-supported autonomous truck by the end of the decade. - Photo: Navistar

Navistar will work with Plus to develop a fully integrated, warrantied and dealer-supported autonomous truck by the end of the decade.

Photo: Navistar

The Traton Group and Plus have announced a global partnership aimed at hastening the adoption of Level 4 fully autonomous trucks and plan to bring the technology to market before the end of the decade.

Under the terms of the global agreement, in the U.S., Navistar will integrate Plus’ Level 4 fully autonomous SuperDrive technology stack into International vehicles and other branded vehicles in the Traton Group.

Navistar was previously working with TuSimple on bringing automomous truck technology to the North American Class 8 truck market. That partnership ended in December of 2022. TuSimple exited the North American market completetly last year.

A Focus on Hub-to-Hub Operations

Navistar has strategically selected hub-to-hub operations as the company’s core segment for commercial viability of autonomous implementation.

The OEM recognizes that the high volume and scalability of hub-to-hub operations presents an immediate addressable market of 25 billion miles of long-distance freight on the U.S. interstate system, according to Chet Ciesielski, vice president, on-highway business for Navistar.

International trucks equipped with SuperDrive by Plus are being validated with a safety driver on routes in Texas. Customer pilots are expected within the year, with global commercial deployments expanding incrementally along strategic U.S. corridors.

“There is a strong business case for autonomous technology in the hub-to-hub distribution model, specifically in long-haul transportation where there’s a compelling opportunity to increase operational efficiencies,” said Tobias Glitterstam, chief strategy and transformation officer for Navistar.

“Global partnership with a company like Plus allows us to leverage the technical strides they have made as we work together to focus on the commercial viability of Level 4 autonomous driving.”

Although the Traton partnership is focused on Level 4 autonomous technologies, Plus will continue to develop its "driver-in" suite of safety solutions as well. - Photo: Navistar

Although the Traton partnership is focused on Level 4 autonomous technologies, Plus will continue to develop its "driver-in" suite of safety solutions as well.

Photo: Navistar

Navistar’s autonomous commercial pilot program is focused on integrated autonomous solutions. Fully developed and supported by Navistar, the autonomous technology solutions will be seamlessly integrated into customer operations, tailored to fit unique customer requirements.

“Our autonomous commercial pilot program is intended to be a safe, reliable option for customers to explore the deployment and integration of autonomous vehicles into their operations,” said Ciesielski.

An Integrated Autonomous System

Shawn Kerrigan, COO and co-founder of Plus, explained in a release that “by leveraging our experience deploying our highly modular and flexible autonomous driving software across the U.S., we can help accelerate the commercialization of autonomous trucks that can easily be integrated into customer operations.”

The Plus Level 4 autonomous driving system SuperDrive is integrated into International trucks, providing solutions for maintenance, telematics, safety, and reliability.

Kerrigan told HDT that he believes the integration aspect of autonomous vehicle systems is very important for fleets.

“This is new technology,” he explained. “And so we believe fleets want a fully integrated autonomous system that comes with full OEM and dealer support, as well as warranty protection. This partnership with Traton is a very good role model for this highly customer-focused approach.”

Although this new partnership with Traton is focused on SuperDrive system, Kerrigan noted that Plus has a full range of autonomous systems available, ranging from the PlusDrive “driver-in” solution all the way up to Level 4 “driver-out” systems.

“All of these systems are based on the same core underlying technology from Plus,” he added. “We have been working closely with both Scania and Navistar on autonomous systems since June of 2023. And that will will not only continue, but intensify. Because it is going to take extensive work and testing — both on public roads and in simulators — to demonstrate the safety case for this technology.

"But I believe we will be ready to deploy the first fully autonomous Level 4 Traton trucks with this technology by the end of the decade.”

Level 4 Autonomous Trucks

After many discussions with large fleets around North America, Ciesielski said he is of the opinion that autonomous truck technology is a real solution for multiple issues facing the industry today.

“There are a lot of fleets out there today with trucks sitting idle against a fence because they can’t find drivers for them,” he said. “And this technology definitely helps solve that issue.”

But Ciesielski is also convinced that Level 4 autonomous technology will give human drivers choices that they’ve never had before. That’s because in a fleet with both autonomous and “driver-in” trucks, human drivers will be able to pick the routes, payloads, vehicles and applications that best suit their lives and careers.

“If you have autonomous trucks dedicated to those tough, long-distance routes that take drivers away from home for extended periods, they will have the opportunity to pick the routes they want to run,” he said. “They’ll be able to opt for smaller trucks and shorter routes. They’ll be able to avoid New York City, or other heavily congested areas. They won’t be required to travel across the country unless they want to.

"I think this technology will make a lot of drivers happier and give them much longer careers in trucking. And I agree wholeheartedly with Shawn when he says that any currently employed truck driving today will be able to retire as a truck driver if they want to — even with the advent of Level 4 autonomous trucks.”

About the author
Jack Roberts

Jack Roberts

Executive Editor

Jack Roberts is known for reporting on advanced technology, such as intelligent drivetrains and autonomous vehicles. A commercial driver’s license holder, he also does test drives of new equipment and covers topics such as maintenance, fuel economy, vocational and medium-duty trucks and tires.

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