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Silicon Valley startup hits milestone for developing driverless semi-trucks

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A self-driving semi-truck was able to navigate traffic on a Chinese highway – charting new territory in the race to develop fully autonomous trucks in Silicon Valley.

The trial took place in late June on a new highway in the Yangtze delta, according to officials at the startup Plus. They were one of the first companies not to use human safety drivers or any type of remote controllers during the test. Plus was reportedly given a special permit to test the truck on the highway. It was the first company to get such permission from China, Bloomberg reported.

“The demo shows the safety, maturity, and functionality of our technology,” which still is being developed toward eventual commercial use, said Shawn Kerrigan, chief operating officer and co-founder of Plus.

Plus is one of a few startups trying to develop self-driving trucks during a worsening driver shortage. There are reportedly six levels of self-driving technology identified by the Society for Automotive Engineering, ranging from full manual control (Level Zero) to total automation (Level 5). Plus is now at Level 4. 

The California-based company reportedly plans to implement the Level 4 technology in fully driverless trucks in “a dedicated environment in 2022.”