Self-Driving Truck start-up taps into US market from China

Plus is a Self-driving truck technology developer. It has completed its Series B funding round, pulling in $200 million from returning backers and new investors from China. Plus has raised nearly $400 million in total.

New and Old investors to bring in money for expansion

The new investors include China’s leading securities firm, Hong Kong-listed Guotai Junan International, and Wanxiang, a top Chinese automotive components supplier. China’s largest carmaker, SAIC; and Full Truck Alliance, the world’s largest trucking platform serving more than 10 million truckers and 5 million shippers, also bought in.

Existing investors include Sequoia Capital, Lightspeed Venture Partners, and GSR Ventures, which also participated.

The additional funding and continued support of our investors will help us further scale our commercialization efforts, enabling us to serve fleets in more countries.

David Liu, Plus CEO and co-founder, said in a press release on Wednesday

Plus will develop a sales and support network to help fleets integrate its system into their daily operations.

In addition to growing operations in the U.S. and China, Plus plans to expand to Europe and parts of Asia, which means, more engineers will be hired, too. 

The FAW-Plus pact

Plus was the first self-driving system maker to complete a cross-country U.S. commercial freight run using an autonomous truck with Land O’Lakes.

Plus had announced in December that FTA, the Google-backed Chinese digital freight-matching platform would be used to sell trucks powered by its automated driving system.

Chinese truck maker FAW is partnering with Plus forming a joint venture with FAW to develop China’s next generation of commercial vehicles making Plus, FAW’s exclusive provider of autonomous trucking technology.

Plus plans to begin mass production this year, several years sooner than start-ups like TuSimple and Aurora. It is working respectively with major U.S. manufacturers Navistar International Corp. (NYSE: NAV) and PACCAR Inc. (NASDAQ: PCAR). 

Plus claims pre-orders of more than 10,000 autonomous systems.

The technology behind the trucks

Lidar stands for Light Detection and Ranging. It is a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser. That laser measures variable distances to the Earth. The company announced separately on Tuesday that it would purchase at least 2,000 digital lidar sensors from start-up lidar maker Ouster Inc. to outfit key elements of Plus’s automated truck system.

Shawn Kerrigan, Plus chief operating officer and co-founder said, “Lidar is a critical sensing modality. It is being included in our sensor suite in order to develop the safest automated trucks,”.

Contract manufacturer Benchmark Electronics in Thailand makes most of the Ouster’s systems and is also close to China, where many of the sensors will be needed.

“We see a huge opportunity in automated trucks that are driving significant demand for our sensors today and is growing exponentially in the near future,” said Angus Pacala, Ouster co-founder, and CEO.

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