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Calif.-based Plus is hopping on the SPAC train. The startup, which is developing self-driving truck technology, is being acquired by Hennessy Capital Investment Corp. V, a publicly-traded special purpose acquisition company (SPAC). If the deal is approved, the combined company will be valued at $3.3 billion and trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “PLAV.”
Plus is developing a proprietary Level 4 autonomous driving system for trucks. The company plans to begin mass production of the system, called PlusDrive, starting in 2021 with FAW, the world’s largest heavy-truck manufacturer. Plus is working with some of the largest fleets in the U.S. and China to pilot commercial freight operations. The company is also working with IVECO, one of the top global truck manufacturers in the world, to jointly develop autonomous trucks that will be deployed across China, Europe and other geographies.
The SPAC deal would provide a significant cash infusion for Plus to expand these commercialization efforts. The business combination is expected to deliver up to approximately $500 million in gross proceeds at closing, including approximately $345 million of cash. Plus did just raised a $420 million funding round. It has raised about $620 million since it was founded in 2016.
“This transaction enables Plus to continue growing our business globally, so that fleets and drivers can benefit from our revolutionary technology and usher in a new generation of innovation,” said David Liu, CEO and Co-founder of Plus. “At the same time, the transaction introduces a partner in HCIC V that shares our focus on sustainable technology and infrastructure, is aligned on our growth and value creation objectives, and recognizes the challenges trucking companies face today.”
Daniel J. Hennessy, chairman and CEO of HCIC V, previously led blank-check firms that completed deals with companies including electric-vehicle developer Canoo, Blue Bird, which makes school buses, and Texas-based transportation and logistics firm Daseke.
“While we evaluated a number of potential partners, Plus stood out for its unique AI-powered autonomous trucking technology, its partnerships with OEMs and world-class customers, and its strategic roadmap to start the broad commercialization of its intelligent transportation solutions today,” said Hennessy. “We look forward to collaborating with David and his team of experts in automotive safety, self-driving technology, artificial intelligence, robotics, cybersecurity and product development, as Plus transforms the global freight market with a safe self-driving trucking system and creates shareholder value.”
According to Plus, the market opportunity for autonomous long-haul trucking is an estimated $1.2 trillion for the U.S. and China, while the total addressable global freight market is approximately $4 trillion.
Plus’ SPAC deal, which is expected to close in the third quarter, would make the startup the second autonomous trucking technology provider to list on a U.S. exchange. Its rival TuSimple Holdings Inc. made its debut in March 2021 in a $1.35 billion IPO on the Nasdaq stock market.
SPACs have become a hot investment mechanism in robotics, as well as many other industries. Berkshire Grey, Sarcos Robotics, Vicarious Surgical, and a slew of LiDAR companies, have or will be going public via SPACs.