Penske, Schneider, and U.S. Xpress are among the major freight transportation providers that have reserved orders for autonomous trucks from self-driving technology vendor TuSimple and its manufacturing partner Navistar International Corp., the companies said Monday.
San Diego-based TuSimple said it has received 6,775 reservations for the self-driving semis, and will work with Navistar to begin manufacturing them in 2024.
The announcement came the same day that rival autonomous truck builder Plus announced that it planned to go public by merging with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) to fuel its plan to start mass production in China later this year. Cupertino, California-based Plus will gain financing from the SPAC known as Hennessy Capital Investment Corp. V and will access manufacturing through a partnership with Shanghai-based automaker FAW Jiefang Truck Co. Ltd.
Both TuSimple and Plus plan to make vehicles that will operate at Level 4 autonomy, the second-highest level on a scale used by regulators such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), wherein a vehicle “is capable of performing all driving functions under certain conditions,” and its driver may still have the option to control the vehicle. According to the NHTSA, that level of technology would eliminate “the vast majority of motor vehicle crashes,” reduce road congestion, sustain smoother traffic flows, and offer mobility to disabled Americans.
While TuSimple and Navistar had previously announced their strategic partnership to co-develop the L4 autonomous heavy-duty trucks, they said the number of reservations represent “the first wave” of customer commitments to bring the system to market. "These early reservation numbers reflect the appetite surrounding self-driving technology in long-haul applications," said Bob Walsh, Navistar’s vice president, emerging technologies, strategy & planning, said in a release. "We are happy to partner with TuSimple to offer this integrated autonomous solution to our customers."
TuSimple is already operating a test fleet of 50 L4 autonomous trucks across Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Those vehicles transport freight for revenue on both highways and surface streets for customers such as UPS, U.S. Xpress, and the Arizona Association of Food Banks, the firm said.
The spate of orders came the same day that TuSimple released its first quarter earnings report, showing a loss of $385 million, up from its loss of $25.7 million for the same period last year. Despite the loss, the company has been spending heavily on growth, adding investors such as UPS Inc., Werner Enterprises Inc., and U.S. Xpress itself, growing its research and development team, and launching autonomous testing in Sweden with automaker Scania. The company also went public in April through a $1 billion initial public offering (IPO).
TuSimple and Navistar are co-developing a purpose-built L4 autonomous truck to be produced by Navistar in 2024. Today we are happy to share that we have received a total of 6,775 reservations and our reservation holders include Penske, Schneider, and U.S.Xpress among others. pic.twitter.com/MfKUhDoi4f— TuSimple (@TuSimpleAI) May 10, 2021