UPS accelerates autonomous truck research with TuSimple stake

19 Aug 2019259 Views

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TuSimple said investment from UPS will help the start-up ‘accelerate bringing the first self-driving truck to market’.

Last week, UPS announced that it had invested in autonomous trucking company TuSimple. Through its venture capital arm, UPS Ventures, the American multinational shipping and logistics company took a minority stake in the start-up, completing the transaction on 13 August.

UPS did not disclose financial details of the stake. In a press release, the company said that the transaction is an extension of the ongoing commercial relationship between UPS and TuSimple, in which UPS has purchased transportation services from TuSimple.

The two companies have participated in ongoing tests, in which UPS provides truckloads of goods for TuSimple to carry on a North American freight forwarding route between Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona. UPS quietly began these self-driving tests in May 2019, with a driver and engineer in the vehicle.

TuSimple has also been testing its technology for other shipping and logistics companies besides UPS in this region.

UPS chief strategy and transformation officer Scott Price said that the company is “committed to developing and deploying technologies that enable [it] to operate [its] global logistics network more efficiently”.

“While fully autonomous, driverless vehicles still have development and regulatory work ahead, we are excited by the advances in braking and other technologies that companies like TuSimple are mastering.

“All of these technologies offer significant safety and other benefits that will be realised long before the full vision of autonomous vehicles is brought to fruition – and UPS will be there, as a leader implementing these new technologies in our fleet.”

Accelerating development

TuSimple was founded in 2015. Since then, the company has been developing technology to allow shipping companies to operate self-driving class-8 tractor-trailers – those that exceed 33,000 pounds and typically have three or more axles. The company is aiming to bring the first self-driving truck to market.

The start-up closed its last funding round, Series D, in February. It raised $95m and was valued at $1bn at the time of funding.

TuSimple’s founder, president and CTO, Xiaodi Hou said: “We are honoured by UPS’s strategic investment and their vote of confidence in TuSimple – this proves their commitment to staying at the forefront of innovation.

“TuSimple is confident that it can accelerate bringing the first self-driving truck to market to increase road safety.”

In a statement, UPS Ventures also said that it is investing in internet-of-things (IoT) technology, AI and advanced analytics to “increase fuel efficiency and improve customer service to ensure that UPS remains the shipper of choice”.

UPS Ventures managing partner Todd Lewis added: “The UPS Ventures mission is to build collaborative relationships with early-stage companies that provide capabilities and insights that accelerate technological advancements within our network.

“UPS Ventures collaborates with start-ups to explore new technologies and tailor them to meet our specific needs.”

Kelly Earley is a journalist with Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com