According to Bloomberg, automated trucking startup Plus.ai is on the cusp of landing $200 million in Series B funding. As a result, the self-driving truck company is on pace to reach a $1 billion valuation. Given the three-year-old firm’s history, it should be able to reward its investors’ confidence relatively soon.
The Plus.ai Story
In 2016, a group of Stanford graduates founded a startup to harness the potential of artificial intelligence (AI). Ultimately, the company decided to focus on developing new full-stack self-driving solutions—specifically for the freight industry. Just four months after its founding, the company built its first road-ready prototype. In early 2017, the startup became the first self-driving trucking firm to secure a California Autonomous Vehicle Testing License.
By early 2018, Plus.ai landed its first commercial client. Moreover, the firm saw one of its vehicles complete a 1,140-mile journey between San Francisco and Las Vegas. Since then, Plus.ai has run a battery of tests in both the United States and China. Notably, the company is not a software creator.
The corporation’s development process has been successful enough to secure the interest of Full Truck Alliance Group. The Sino Corporation is China’s largest truck sharing operation and is one of Plus.ai’s biggest shareholders. With its new Sequoia (Bird scooters) led cash injection, the firm is poised to deploy its self-driving solution at a larger scale.
The Next Step
Bloomberg reports that Plus.ai’s next step is to enter into a joint venture with FAW Jiefang, one of China’s largest truck manufacturers. The firm plans to use its current funding round to unveil a new fleet with Level 2 autonomous operation capabilities.
The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) mandates that Level 2 self-driving vehicles be able to steer, accelerate, and brake. However, at that level, automobiles aren’t capable of full automation and therefore still need a human operator at the helm. For example, Tesla’s Autopilot program offers Level 2 driving functionality.
Plus.ai’s driver assistance enabled trucks offer clients benefits such as a lower supply chain carbon footprint, enhanced safety, and more efficient routing. But the startup’s ambitions are far greater.
Plus.ai is also currently developing SAE Level 4 autonomy. This allows vehicles to run without a driver within a geofenced area. If the firm’s products reach that level of technological advancement, it may be able to roll out true self-driving trucks in China. Thanks to its partnership with Full Truck Alliance Group, the company has the potential to deploy its products throughout the country.
Another positive sign is that the startup intends to use NVIDIA chipsets to guide the self-driving systems of its new fleet.
If its automated logistics solution proves viable in China, Plus.ai can compete with firms like TuSimple to revolutionize freight transportation worldwide.