Self-driving trucking software maker Plus will work with the natural gas joint venture Cummins Westport to apply its supervised PlusDrive system to a 12-liter natural gas engine, pairing what eventually could be driverless technology with a powertrain featuring near-zero carbon emissions.

The PlusDrive autonomous system already saves fuel because of AI-enabled algorithms, the Cupertino, California-based startup said.

Plus has customers for the U.S. version of its autonomous driving system that want natural gas engines certified by Cummins (NYSE: CMI) to near -zero emissions. They reduce smog-forming emissions by 90% compared to current EPA standards for nitrogen oxide air pollutants.

Running on renewable natural gas (RNG) made from farm and food waste and methane captured from landfills, natural gas engines can emit negative net-zero emissions.

“Our collaboration with Cummins enables us to deliver this sustainable solution to our customers and other fleets,” Plus co-founder and Chief Operating Officer Shawn Kerrigan told FreightWaves.

Retrofitted trucks in 2022

Plus expects to have the retrofitted trucks operating with safety drivers in 2022. The Level 4 software requiring human intervention in some circumstances will run. But it is constantly monitored by the safety driver on alert to take over operation of the truck if needed.

The collaboration is being applied to the Cummins Westport ISX12N Natural Gas engine integrated with the Endurant HD N 12-speed automated transmission from the Eaton Cummins Automated Transmission Technologies joint venture. The 12-cylinder engine is most often used in Class 8 regional freight movement.

“Working with Cummins on this truly meaningful product is a natural extension of our long-standing partnership,” Kerrigan said in a press release. 

J. Michael Taylor, Cummins’ general manager of Global Powertrain Integration, said, “Cummins engines can power nearly every type of vehicle and application globally, so the integration of our natural gas powertrains for autonomous driving applications is a logical next step to provide customers with solutions that align with their specific business requirements,.”

Plus will begin mass production of its PlusDrive system this summer. It plans to deploy the supervised autonomous trucking system globally across the U.S., China, Europe and other parts of Asia. PlusDrive is being tested in China by large fleet operators.

Plus previously announced it would work with Europe’s IVECO to install autonomous software in trucks in China, Europe and elsewhere. They also will explore using IVECO’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) engine system to power the jointly developed autonomous trucks.

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Plus money: Autonomous technology startup adds $220M to recent capital raise 

Self-driving trucks: A 10 billion-mile proof case for Plus

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Alan Adler.