A Plus for Autonomous Trucking: Startup to Build Next-Gen Self-Driving Platform with NVIDIA DRIVE Orin

The PlusDrive autonomous driving system for commercial vehicles is set to launch in 2022.
by Katie Burke

The autonomous trucking industry is about to get a major new addition.

Self-driving truck company Plus announced that its upcoming autonomous vehicle platform will be built on NVIDIA DRIVE Orin. This software-defined system will continuously improve upon the safety and efficiency of the delivery and logistics industry with high-performance compute and AI algorithms that can be updated over the air.

The self-driving system, known as PlusDrive, can be retrofitted to existing trucks or added as an upfit option on new vehicles by manufacturers. The company plans to roll out the next-generation platform in 2022 and has already received more than 10,000 pre-orders.

With DRIVE Orin at the center, PlusDrive uses lidar, radar and cameras to provide a 360-degree view of the truck’s surroundings. Data gathered through the sensors helps the system identify objects nearby, plan its course, predict the movement of those objects and control the vehicle to make its next move safely.

Innovating an Industry

Trucking has played an increasingly vital role in the world economy. For example, commercial vehicles transport more than 70 percent of all freight in the U.S. as e-commerce and next-day delivery have skyrocketed in popularity.

These trends come as driver shortages accelerate. The American Trucking Association estimates the industry could be in need of 160,000 drivers by 2028, in addition to limits on the amount of hours drivers can consecutively work that restrict operation. With the ability to efficiently operate around the clock, autonomous trucks promise to ease much of these industry pressures.

In contrast to lighter passenger vehicles, trucks can total 80,000 pounds with a fully loaded trailer and need a longer time to come to a stop. Developing autonomous commercial vehicles requires a system that can perceive long distances in real time to enable these trucks to safely maneuver.

By leveraging DRIVE Orin, Plus is building an intelligent, software-defined solution to address these challenges in the near term.

Big Brains for Big Rigs

Autonomous vehicles require high-performance compute for truly intelligent operation.

NVIDIA Orin is a system-on-a-chip born out of the data center. It achieves 254 TOPS — nearly 8x the performance of the previous generation Xavier SoC — and is designed to handle the large number of applications and deep neural networks that run simultaneously in autonomous trucks, while achieving systematic safety standards such as ISO 26262 ASIL-D.

This massive compute capability ensures the PlusDrive system is continuously learning, expanding the environments and situations in which it can operate autonomously.

“The greatest computing power is needed to process the trillions of operations that our autonomous driving system runs every second,” said Hao Zheng, Plus CTO and co-founder. “NVIDIA Orin is a natural choice for us.”

Plus is also a member of NVIDIA Inception, an acceleration program that offers go-to-market support, expertise and technology for AI, data science and HPC startups.

“The early access to NVIDIA’s autonomous vehicle technologies roadmap and solutions through the Inception program enables us to evaluate and adopt the latest hardware to provide the powerful real time performance required of our autonomous trucking system,” Zheng said.

Software-Defined Progress

Plus has already achieved significant self-driving milestones, and with a new software-defined platform, the company is giving itself plenty of room to excel further.

In 2019, Plus made history in the U.S. by successfully completing a cross-country autonomous trucking route in just three days. The company has conducted testing in 17 states and is currently operating commercial pilots with leading shipping companies in both the U.S. and China.

With the new Orin-based system, PlusDrive’s capabilities will continue to get better as AI technology advances. Orin’s massive compute headroom makes it easier to integrate and update advanced software features as they’re developed, enabling these intelligent trucks to continue down the open road of safer, more efficient delivery and logistics.