SF Express has selected Plus (formerly Plus.ai) to assist with its commercial freight pilot program in China. SF Express, China’s second-largest logistics company, launched the now ongoing pilot program in December 2020 with Plus and fleet operator Zhihong Logistics. In the pilot program, Plus is running supervised autonomous trucks on two long-haul routes. The first is between Wuhan to Wuxi (900 miles, round trip), while the second is Changshu to Wuhan (1,000 miles, round trip).
“The primary goal of the pilot is to enable SF Express to gain an understanding of and confidence in the capabilities of our self-driving system, PlusDrive, and the benefits the automated trucks will bring to their logistics operations,” explained Shawn Kerrigan, COO and Co-Founder of Plus. “That is why we chose two long-haul routes with significant miles.”
SF Express is often referred to as “China’s UPS” as it operates a fleet of 43,000 trucks covering over 100,000 different routes. The vast number of trucks and extensive coverage is an excellent opportunity for Plus and its partners to gather valuable data on improving safety, cutting fuel costs, and addressing other pain points for long-haul trucking and the logistics industry.
“The data and results from the first few months of the pilot are consistent with those of other pilots we’ve conducted,” Kerrigan said, noting how the company has participated in fleet pilot programs in both the United States and China. “PlusDrive improves safety, reduces fuel costs by more than 20 percent, and lowers carbon emissions.”
Driver feedback has been positive, with operators saying they feel less stress behind the wheel with PlusDrive. The two long-haul routes for the pilot take an average of two to three days to complete. “A professional truck operator remains in the vehicle to supervise the system, much like the role of a pilot in an airplane,” Kerrigan added. “Drivers have reported improved peace of mind and enhanced comfort using our system.”
According to Plus, early pilot partners have pre-ordered over 10,000 units of PlusDrive, which is due to enter mass-production this summer. Kerrigan also believes fleet operations should recoup their investment in PlusDrive in two years or less based on the current fuel efficiency data. “We look forward to sharing more as we have new learnings from this pilot,” he said.