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Supply Chain News: Autonomous Trucks One Step Closer to Reality


TuSimple Successfully Conducts Truly Driverless Test over 80 Miles of Open Road in Arizona

Jan. 4, 2021

You may have missed the news over the holidays, but in late December autonomous truck developer TuSimple announced a successful test of truly autonomous operations on public roads.

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The test did include unmarked police car following about a mile behind the truck just in case the truck had to come to an emergency stop.

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TuSimple said in the test of its Autonomous Driving System (ADS) navigated 100% of the 80-mile trip that included surface streets and highway driving between a railyard in Tuscon, Arizona and an undisclosed distribution center in Phoenix – taking place with no human intervention. The truck trailer did carry some cargo.

This marked a milestone for both the company and the autonomous truck sector as a whole, being the first such trip for a Class 8 autonomous truck that interacted naturally with motorists on open public roads. The company added that it expects to be able to have commercialized driverless trucks by 2024.

As a result of that news, publicly traded TuSimple saw its stock price rise about 15%, but it has pulled back a bit since then. The company went public just this past April, and it hasn’t been a good ride for early investors, with TuSimple going listing at a price of about $71 per share, with a current share price of about $36.

The truck took 100 minutes to travel the full route that mostly was on the well-known I-10 highway. It occurred under good weather conditions and between the hours of 9 PM to midnight.

The truck outfitted with the TuSimple technology was able to navigate surface streets, traffic signals, on-ramps, off-ramps, emergency lane vehicles and highway lane changes in open traffic, the company said, as it complied with speed limits and traffic rules.

TuSimple said after this test that in the past 18 months it has performed 1,800 runs and driven its trucks about 150,000 miles on the same I-10 highway, but previously with human oversight.

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The test did include unmarked police car following about a mile behind the truck just in case the truck had to come to an emergency stop. TuSimple also used a vehicle driving about five miles in front of the truck to look for unexpected risks.


"This test reinforces what we believe is our unique position at the forefront of autonomous trucking, delivering advanced driving technology at commercial scale,” said Cheng Lu, TuSimple's president and CEO, in a statement. He said the company is "laser-focused on putting our technology through a rigorous test on open public roads under real-world conditions."


TuSimple claims its technology, leveraging artificial intelligence, allows trucks to "see" 1,000 meters away, operate nearly continuously and achieve fuel savings of 10% or more compared to those driven manually.

The company announced its successful driverless ride via a December 23 press release, along with YouTube footage of the entire one-hour twenty-minute drive.

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