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Supply Chain News: Autonomous Truck Maker TuSimple Looks to Build Logistics Network to Support Its Vehicles


Seeks $250 More Million to Advance Aggressive Plans

July 14, 2020
SCDigest Editorial Staff
The autonomous truck market continues to receive massive investments, as virtually every established truck maker and a rash of startups continue to chase the dream and the billions that would go along with success.

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New routes from Los Angeles to Jacksonville will link West Coast and East Coast in 2022 and 2023.

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One of those companies is on called TuSimple, which has flown somewhat under the radar in its Journey.

But at the beginning of July TuSimple changed the game a bit by announcing a new approach to the market focused on partnerships and supporting infrastructure.

The company has been in very active pilot mode with its trucks for some time. The company's fleet of 40 trucks now operates autonomously- with a driver on-board for emergencies and off-highway driving - on seven routes in the Southwest, moving freight between Dallas, Phoenix, Tucson, and El Paso.

The Wall Street Journal reports that four year old TuSimple plans to pilot fully autonomous driverless service in 2021, and expects to expand those operations nationwide in 2023 and 2024 with the help of new technology it is developing with German auto parts maker ZF Friedrichshafen AG.

Key to those plans is partnering with carriers and other logistics companies to assemble a coast-to-coast network.

TuSimple is busy building out lanes and terminals connected by digital routing maps that function "like virtual railroad tracks" for its retrofitted tractors, said company president Cheng Lu. "We have to build an ecosystem that can safely and efficiently bring autonomous trucks to market."

TuSimple expect to nearly double the number of weekly freight runs it operates to 93, up from about 50 currently. It is already moving loads for truckload carrier US Xpress and United Parcel Service, which last year took a minority stake in the company.

TuSimple is already also using some facilities of logistics service provider McLane's facilities as freight terminals.

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According to TuSimple, they'll build the network in phases. After the seven lanes it currently operates in the Southwest, next it will add routes to Houston and San Antonio later this year. New routes from Los Angeles to Jacksonville will link West Coast and East Coast in 2022 and 2023. And in the following year, the company says it will roll out commercial availability and further expand to major shipping routes throughout the contiguous US.

After having already raise $215 million last year in a "D round" from investors, the company has hired investment bank Morgan Stanley to help it raise an additional $250 million, according to multiple sources familiar with the effort.

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