Automated truck developer Plus (formerly Plus.ai) announced today that the company signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with truck maker IVECO, a brand of CNH Industrial N.V. CNHI to jointly develop autonomous trucks that will be deployed across China, Europe, and other parts of the world. (Disclosure: I am an Advisor to Plus.)

Under the terms of the non-binding MOU, IVECO and Plus will integrate IVECO’s latest-generation S-WAY heavy-duty truck with the PlusDrive full-stack autonomous driving system to launch an SAE Level 4 automated truck.  Along with the many other companies active in this space, this announcement is yet another marker of the maturing of automated trucking towards commercial launch.

Headquartered in Silicon Valley, Plus has developed several partnerships aimed at commercialization. In a joint venture with FAW, the world’s largest heavy-truck manufacturer, PlusDrive is being launched this year in China. Plus has previously indicated that these vehicles will integrate systems designed for Level 4 automation operating with a commercial driver supervising, an approach unique across the truck AV developers. In addition to IVECO, Plus says they are currently working with some of the leading truck manufacturers, largest shippers, and top fleet operators to begin mass production of its automated driving system.

IVECO, headquartered in Turin, Italy, designs, manufactures and markets a wide range of light, medium and heavy commercial vehicles, off-road trucks, and vehicles for applications such as off-road missions. They also produce commercial buses. The brand’s range of trucks products include the Daily, a vehicle that covers the 3.3 – 7.2 ton vehicle weight segment, the Eurocargo from 6 – 19 tons and, in the heavy segment above 16 tons, the Trakker (dedicated to off-road missions) and the IVECO WAY range with the on-road IVECO S-WAY and the IVECO X-WAY for light off-road missions. IVECO produces about 150,000 trucks annually, as compared to production of roughly 200,000 trucks annually from each of PACCAR PCAR and Volvo Group. IVECO has a broad global footprint, selling trucks in Asia, Europe, South America, South Africa, as well as Israel, Australia, and New Zealand. IVECO is not present in the North American market.

The partners will also explore using IVECO’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) engine system to power the jointly developed automated trucks. According to the announcement, LNG-powered S-WAY trucks not only significantly reduce carbon emissions, but also reduce unladen weight and therefore increase payload capacity.

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Shawn Kerrigan, COO and Co-founder of Plus, said: “We are thrilled to partner with IVECO, who shares our vision for a safer and more sustainable future through autonomous trucks. Our teams will work closely to develop and deploy autonomous trucks, including one that is powered by natural gas. IVECO’s global footprint in over 160 countries will enable us to accelerate our commercial deployment and magnify the impact of our autonomous driving technology.”

IVECO is highly active in Advanced Driver Assistance Systems, currently offering Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning System, Electronic Braking System, Antilock Braking System, Acceleration Slip Regulation, Electronic Brake Limiter, the Hill Holder System, and the Electronic Stability Program. IVECO also offers Remote Assistance Services for remote diagnostics, teleservices and over-the-air software updates.

IVECO is no stranger to automated driving. From 1996-2003 the European Commission funded the CHAUFFEUR program to build the first fully automated truck platoons, working with Daimler, IVECO, and Renault.  During this time, these “Electronic Tow Bar” vehicles were demonstrated on a test track in Italy and evaluated on a German highway.

Marco Liccardo, Chief Technology and Digital Officer of IVECO said, “The partnership with Plus represents an excellent opportunity to accelerate the development of the highest levels of automation for heavy trucks. Plus’s technology leadership, non-linear thinking, and established relationships with the same key component suppliers make it the perfect autonomous trucking partner.”

According to press reports last year, FAW was in talks with CNH to acquire IVECO. CNH has also discussed spinning off IVECO.

Partnerships between automated truck developers and truck manufacturers have dominated truck AV news recently. PACCAR and Volvo Trucks have signed non-exclusive agreements with Aurora, Traton has done the same with TuSimple, as has Daimler with Waymo. No timing for the Plus-IVECO Level 4 truck launch was provided, but this is likely in line with the 2024-25 timeframe discussed broadly across the industry.