Self-driving truck company wants to test in ‘toughest winter conditions’ in Minnesota

They say that they want to "harden" their driverless truck technology for winter weather.

Self Driving Trucks

A California-based self-driving truck startup is partnering with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) to test out how their trucks will perform during harsh winter weather conditions.

On October 8, self-driving truck tech company Plus.ai announced its partnership wth MnDOT as part of their plan to test in the “toughest winter conditions.” As a part of the partnership, Plus.ai will be testing their autonomous truck technology on MnDOT’s MnROAD cold-weather pavement testing facility.

According to a news release about the partnership, “Testing will allow Plus.ai to better understand how winter conditions affect the movement of its trucks. Winter conditions are tough to handle for all vehicles, and snow is particularly challenging for trucks, which can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. The testing will begin with mapping the MnROAD closed test track, followed by rigorous performance testing of Plus.ai’s self-driving trucks.”

The tests will feature the use of Level 4 autonomous technology and a human driver will remain inside the truck during the testing process.

Plus.ai co-founder Shawn Kerrigan says that the testing is meant to help adapt the technology to help it safely operate in extreme weather conditions. “Commercializing Plus.ai’s self-driving trucks requires preparing them to drive in all climates, including the toughest winter road conditions that Minnesota experiences. We are thrilled with this public-private partnership with the Minnesota Department of Transportation to test and harden our autonomous trucks for extreme weather, as well as to support public policy and infrastructure considerations that pave the way for self-driving trucks,” Kerrigan said.

Kristin White, Executive Director of MnDOT’s Office of Connected and Automated Vehicles, says that the partnership is also about learning how to share data: “As automation and emerging transportation technology evolve, the Minnesota Department of Transportation understands how critical it is to collaboratively share information and expertise with partners like Plus.ai. Learning how these vehicles operate in winter weather helps Minnesota advance safety innovation for everyone in the transportation system.”

Plus.ai was founded in 2016 and has headquarters in Silicon Valley, with research and development offices in China.

You can check out video of a Plus.ai driverless truck road test on a (snow-free) California roadway below.

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