Autonomous driving tech vendor TuSimple today said it plans to bring self-driving trucks to market by 2024 by launching a self-operating freight network through a partnership with the four logistics providers UPS Inc., Penske Truck Leasing, carrier fleet U.S. Xpress, and supply chain service provider McLane.
Together, the group will create an “ecosystem” consisting of autonomous trucks, digital mapped routes, strategically placed terminals, and an autonomous operations monitoring system called “TuSimple Connect,” the firm said.
The plan extends an existing relationship between San Diego-based TuSimple and UPS, which saw the logistics and parcel delivery giant buy a minority stake in the tech startup in 2019. At that time, the partners said they would continue a series of tests of self-driving tractor-trailers on a route in Arizona to support UPS operations and seek to improve service and efficiency. TuSimple has also been running tests with the U.S. Postal Service, hauling USPS trailers more than 1,000 miles between postal distribution centers in Phoenix and Dallas.
TuSimple’s announcement comes as venture capital-backed Waymo, the autonomous vehicle unit of Google parent company Alphabet Inc., said it was continuing with plans to launch autonomous truck services by testing self-driving trucks on a shipping corridor spanning Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California, according to published reports.
The new TuSimple venture will create an Autonomous Freight Network (AFN) that rolls out in three phrases, laying the groundwork for self-driving trucks to become commercially available by 2024, the firm said:
Following that nationwide rollout, TuSimple plans to replicate the same strategy in Europe and Asia, executives said. "Our ultimate goal is to have a nationwide transportation network consisting of mapped routes connecting hundreds of terminals to enable efficient, low-cost long-haul autonomous freight operations," Cheng Lu, the president of TuSimple, said in a release. "By launching the AFN with our strategic partners, we will be able to quickly scale operations and expand autonomous shipping lanes to provide users access to autonomous capacity anywhere and 24/7 on-demand."
TuSimple already operates autonomously on seven different routes between Phoenix, Tucson, El Paso, and Dallas. This fall, TuSimple will open a new shipping terminal in Dallas to expand its coverage in Texas and give mid-sized customers access to the advantages of autonomous trucking. For high-volume customers, TuSimple will continue to map routes and deliver directly to their distribution centers.
The AFN integrates with existing logistics networks and transportation management systems to enable efficient, low-cost long-haul autonomous freight operations. Additionally, TuSimple says its technology allows autonomous trucks to be 10% more fuel-efficient than manually driven trucks, and in the future to operate continuously without hours of service limitations. Taken together, those advantages will provide greater asset utilization and cost savings, the firm said.
Today TuSimple launched the world’s first Autonomous Freight Network with UPS, Penske, U.S. Xpress, and McLane. With the launch of the TuSimple AFN we're creating the ecosystem necessary to bring L4 self-driving trucks to market safely and efficiently. https://t.co/2jQHpxlpxz— TuSimple (@TuSimpleAI) July 1, 2020