Plus, formerly known as Plus.ai, is a pioneer in autonomous driving technology—and a company that I have been watching closely for many years. Over the past year or so, it has made huge moves in the trucking industry. For example, I’ve written about its partnerships with big-name fleets and vehicle manufacturers like Amazon, IVECO and Nikola.
Plus’s highly automated driving (HAD) next-gen safety solution, PlusDrive, is changing the trucking landscape and the whole truck-driving experience because it offers attractive safety, driver comfort and fuel economy features that are unprecedented in the commercial vehicle market.
I believe the company has scored its big wins with trucking companies because of its approach to HAD technologies in an already mature market. This approach, which I want to flesh out in this article, is why Plus has the potential to move beyond commercial vehicles and into a broader market of HAD solutions for commercial and passenger vehicles.
Plus is pioneering true driving autonomy
The automotive industry has been innovating for over a century with better fuel efficiency, new safety technologies and improved rider experiences. HAD represents a new frontier that promises to completely change the driving experience, from reacting to things in front of your lane to using AI to predict the behavior of vehicles in the lanes next to you and maneuvering the vehicle for you. I have demoed Plus’s level 4 (L4) autonomy technology (you can read my analysis here) applied to a L2++ solution, and I can tell you it is the future of truck driving.
For those who are unfamiliar with the different levels of autonomy, L0 means no automation, L1 covers things like hands-on cruise control, L2 and L3 broadly encompasses basic advanced driver assist systems (ADAS) to highly automated driving (HAD), and L4 and L5 rise to the level of complete autonomy.HAD equipped vehicles promise to elevate fuel efficiency, safety and rider experience to a whole new level, not to mention the additional benefits when we reach L4. Just like automatic transmission, we expect that HAD technologies will become standard in all vehicles in the coming years. This raises a crucial question for car and truck OEMs: How do they rapidly develop and deploy this technology to maintain the innovation edge against their competitors, or at minimum stay competitive?
The challenge for the automotive industry is that these software-centric innovative HAD technologies are coming from outside the automotive industry’s technological wheelhouse. The recent shutdown of Ford and VW-backed Argo AI and management shakeup at Cariad due to delays in their autonomous driving technology development show the challenges OEMs face in their move towards autonomy and software defined vehicles.
So what is Plus doing that is so attractive to these manufacturers? It is focusing on HAD software solutions that these companies can adopt as turnkey solutions and then build on top of to add even more value. That approach is leading to huge wins for Plus.
Bosch and Plus unveil collaboration to scale commercialization of driver-assist technology
Plus recently partnered with Bosch to use PlusDrive with an integrated steering system from Bosch that features hardware and software for driver assistance and partially automated features. Bosch is one the world’s top 10 suppliers of automotive parts that also operates in industrial technology, consumer goods, energy and building technology and other fields.
The unique aspect of the deal with Bosch is that Plus contributes its PlusDrive software-based system while Bosch supplies both hardware and software that work together with PlusDrive to enable assisted driving and automated functions on commercial vehicles. PlusDrive provides traffic jam assist, merge handling, driver-initiated and suggested lane changes, lane nudge, driver attentiveness detection and other HAD features. Bosch says it can also provide advanced engineering services from its Bosch Engineering team focused on vehicle integration, security and safety.
This collaboration between Plus and Bosch should help scale up the commercialization of PlusDrive. Bosch’s global reach and deep experience as a system integrator for OEMs puts Plus in a better position to get its HAD solution into more vehicles. This offering from Plus and Bosch helps OEMs accelerate time to market with a semi-autonomous vehicle and still leaves considerable room for OEMs to add differentiation and value to customers.
While the deal with Bosch addresses commercial vehicles, Plus’s autonomous driving software can be applied to other vehicle types including passenger vehicles. Considering that a lot of Bosch’s automotive technology is shared between its commercial and consumer divisions, PlusDrive could lead to added value for Bosch’s consumer go-to-market efforts as well.
The automotive industry is changing at an incredible pace, and I firmly believe that autonomous solutions are going to be one of the greatest inventions in our century. Autonomy will have profound impacts on efficiency, safety and the way we drive and ride in vehicles. Manufacturers in the automotive industry are still trying to find the right balance between developing these new technologies themselves or partnering with software specialists like Plus while still being able to differentiate themselves and add value.
Helping strike this balance is why Plus’s collaboration with Bosch is a huge win for Plus and for automakers who want to introduce HAD solutions. Bosch has enormous experience and global scale, while Plus has the open autonomous software platform that is so attractive for automakers who want a white-labelled turnkey solution and the ability to own their destiny. I think this partnership could be great for both companies, and I’ll be interested to see what else unfolds for Plus in the months and years to come.