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Navistar progresses toward autonomous technology for hub-to-hub transport

March 15, 2024
Trucks equipped with SuperDrive by Plus are being validated with a safety driver on routes in Texas. Customer pilots are expected within the year as the company prepares to launch its autonomous commercial pilot program.

Navistar is making progress in autonomous driving technology as it gears up to launch an autonomous commercial pilot program with customers. As a member of the Traton Group, Navistar is involved in a new partnership with Plus to integrate its Level 4 autonomous SuperDrive technology stack into international vehicles and other branded vehicles within the Traton Group. 

Navistar recognizes that the high volume and scalability of hub-to-hub operations present an addressable market of 25 billion miles of long-distance freight on the U.S. interstate system, according to a company statement. The OEM selected hub-to-hub operations as its core segment for the commercial viability of autonomous implementation. Navistar had previously partnered with TuSimple on autonomous trucking before that AV startup wound down its U.S. operations. 

International trucks equipped with SuperDrive by Plus are being validated with a safety driver on routes in Texas. Customer pilots are expected within the year, with commercial deployments expanding incrementally along strategic U.S. corridors.

"There is a strong business case for autonomous technology in the hub-to-hub distribution model, specifically in long-haul transportation where there's a compelling opportunity to increase operational efficiencies," said Tobias Glitterstam, chief strategy and transformation officer at Navistar. "Global partnership with a company like Plus allows us to leverage the technical strides they have made as we work together to focus on the commercial viability of Level 4 autonomous driving."

Navistar's autonomous commercial pilot program is focused on integrated autonomous solutions. Fully developed and supported by Navistar, the autonomous technology solutions will be integrated into customer operations and tailored to fit customer requirements.

See also: Traton leaders: Navistar supply-chain headaches nearly over

"Our autonomous commercial pilot program is intended to be a safe, reliable option for customers to explore the deployment and integration of autonomous vehicles into their operations," said Chet Ciesielski, VP of on-highway business at Navistar. "As always, we are committed to being a trusted partner as we seek to develop solutions for autonomous driving technology that increase our customers' operating efficiencies, improve road safety, and alleviate strains in the supply chain."

The Plus Level 4 autonomous driving system SuperDrive is integrated into International trucks, providing solutions for maintenance, telematics, safety, and reliability.

"We are excited to partner with Navistar to build the next generation of transportation solutions enabled by our industry-leading autonomy technology," said Shawn Kerrigan, COO and co-founder of Plus. "By leveraging our experience deploying our highly modular and flexible autonomous driving software across the U.S., we can help accelerate the commercialization of autonomous trucks that can easily be integrated into customer operations."

This announcement comes shortly after the Traton Group stated the supply-chain struggles that have hindered Navistar’s operations across North America look to be ending. 

Executive board member Michael Jackstein said Navistar’s ongoing issues in procuring frame rails have been “more or less resolved” and added that the OEM’s supply of axles is also improving. The company’s first-quarter results might still show some lingering impacts, Jackstein said, but should normalize as 2024 progresses.

Still, the Traton team isn’t signaling the all-clear just yet and continues to restrict the number of orders Navistar will accept.

“It’s a little bit like the movie we saw in Europe in 2021 and 2022,” CEO Christian Levin said on a conference call discussing Traton’s fourth-quarter results. “The team is doing a great job there. We are also supporting the colleagues at Navistar with our experts from both Latin America and Europe to help them get back on track.”

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