Driverless startup TuSimple inks new deals with UPS, Penske, and McLane

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Robo-truck startup TuSimple inks new deals with UPS, Penske, and McLane.
Image: YouTube | TuSimple

Autonomous trucking startup TuSimple recently announced it made new partnerships with UPS, U.S. Xpress, Penske, and McLane Company. The firm also unveiled an ambitious roadmap that includes deploying a coast-to-coast driverless freight network by 2024.

Last August, UPS bought a minority stake in the transportation company following a successful four-month collaboration.

TuSimple’s Big Expansions Plans

Though the autonomous ground shipping sector is full of promising startups, TuSimple stands out from the pack because of its rapid advancement. Founded in 2015, the company has secured just under $300 million in outside funding. It has used its financing to develop a Level IV self-driving stack capable of transporting 33,000-pound loads across hundreds of miles.

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TuSimple’s new partnerships will allow the firm to scale up its business significantly.

Previously, the brand conducted around 50 commercial runs per week in between Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. The company will now perform 93 southwestern runs weekly via seven interstate routes. Beginning in 2022, TuSimple will expand its operations into Oklahoma, Tennessee, Louisiana, Georgia, North Carolina, Florida, and California. The following year, the startup plans to go nationwide and make its driverless trucks available to customers in the lower 48 states.

The San Diego-based firm’s new partners will help facilitate its initiative in different ways. Penske will provide TuSimple with maintenance and over-the-road service through its 750 U.S. outposts. UPS, U.S. Xpress, and food delivery logistics brand McLane will give it hauling runs. Together, the startup’s new corporate alliances will optimize its service efficiency, improve its mapping resources, and bolster its bottom line.

The transportation business’s road map extends beyond the continental U.S.; it wants to break into the European and Asian markets if things go well domestically.

Driverless Shipping Breakthrough Coming Soon?

The autonomous freight sector has yet to have its big mainstream moment, but that is mostly due to technological limitations. As of this writing, no organization has deployed a solution that gives trucks unrestricted driving capability without operator intervention. The Boston Consulting Group and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration believe one will be commercially available around 2025.

Based on recent industry developments, that timeline seems apt, if not slightly conservative.

Waymo, Google’s self-driving division, is currently testing out its driverless long-haul trucks in Texas and New Mexico. Amazon recently bought computer-controlled vehicle startup Zoox for $1.2 billion with the presumed intent of automating its vast delivery network. Walmart is working with another nascent transportation firm called Nuro to facilitate contactless order delivery.

Late last year, Plus.ai made headlines by hauling over 40,000 pounds of butter between California and Pennsylvania with an algorithm at the helm.

With billions of dollars invested and millions of miles logged, the driverless freight sector feels like it is on the cusp of something big. As a fully autonomous ground shipping solution could save the logistics industry $70 billion a year, a large addressable market is waiting. Provided it can compete with its roadmap, TuSimple could be the transportation startup that finally moves things forward.

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