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California

No driver needed: 20 tons of butter takes road trip from California to Pennsylvania

 

Prepping your grocery list for the holidays? Pennsylvanians this year could have had their sticks of butter delivered from across the country by a self-driving truck.

A Silicon Valley startup has completed the first coast-to-coast commercial freight trip made by a self-driving truck, according to the company’s press release. Plus.ai announced on Tuesday that its truck traveled from Tulare, California, to Quakertown carrying over 40,000 pounds of Land O’Lakes butter.

And the company says the trek went as smooth as butter.

The journey took less than three days and spanned 2,800 miles, according to the announcement. It also involved different weather conditions and terrains, including the “expansive plains of Kansas (and) winding roads of the Rockies.” The truck drove “primarily in autonomous mode” and a driver was onboard for monitoring and safety purposes, according to the release.

A human driver only took over for “federally mandated breaks and refueling,” a Plus.ai spokesperson told McClatchy News.

“This cross-country freight run with Land O’Lakes shows the safety, efficiency and maturity of our autonomous trucks, which are already delivering freight for other partners several days a week,” said Shawn Kerrigan, COO and co-founder of Plus.ai., in a statement.



The company’s self-driving system uses cameras, radar, and laser-based technology to help trucks figure out distance. Stanford University PhD students founded the company in 2016 and wanted to focus on self-driving technology and the trucking industry, according to the company’s website.

The holiday season is also when there’s peak demand for butter, according to Land O’Lakes.

“End of the year is a very busy time for us,” Yone Dewberry, Land O’Lakes’ Chief Supply Chain Officer, said in the press release. “To be able to address this peak demand with a fuel- and cost-effective freight transport solution will be tremendously valuable to our business.”

Despite the milestone, it’ll still be “a few years out” until self-driving trucks are making regular deliveries across the country, Kerrigan said in an interview with The Mercury News.

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