Self-Driving Truck Start-Up Plans Freight Network

Autonomous vehicles can work around the clock and rarely need to take a break.

July 02, 2020

SAN DIEGO, Calif.—TuSimple, the self-driving truck company, has announced plans to create a network of highway lanes stretching from Los Angeles to Jacksonville, Florida, for the use of autonomous trucks, according to the Wall Street Journal. Eventually, the company hopes to move freight across the 48 contiguous states in the self-driving vehicles.

TuSimple is teaming up with big logistics operators to bulk up its delivery business as it lays the groundwork for a coast-to-coast autonomous freight network. The company wants to nearly double the number of its weekly freight runs to 93, up from about the current 50, as it transports loads for U.S. Xpress Enterprises and United Parcel Service. UPS took a minority stake in the startup last year.

TuSimple also is working with grocery and food-service distributor McLane Company. The trucking company is hauling goods and using space at some McLane facilities as it creates a nationwide network of shipping lanes for self-driving trucks.

The company already has a fleet of 40 trucks operating autonomously on seven routes between Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona, and El Paso and Dallas, Texas. A human operator is on board each vehicle to take over if needed. The company plans to pilot fully autonomous driverless service next year and wants to expand those operations nationwide in 2023 and 2024 with the help of commercialized technology it’s developing with ZF Friedrichshafen AG, the German car parts producer.

To get there, TuSimple is building out lanes and terminals connected by high-definition routing maps that function like virtual railroad tracks for its retrofitted big rigs.

Founded in 2015, TuSimple is one of a several startups developing technology to make long-haul trucking less costly and more efficient. Proponents of the concept say that while human drivers are bound by daily operating limits and must stop for food and rest, driverless rigs can run day and night, potentially cutting costs and speeding up deliveries.