On Thursday, UPS said that it has taken a minority stake in the self-driving truck startup, TuSimple, just months after the two companies began testing the use of autonomous trucks in Arizona. Alongside the company have also announced the news that its venture arm is taking a minority stake in TuSimple. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Previously, Tusimple runs a partnership with the United States Postal Service in May, where the startup’s trucks carried mail on the 1,000-mile stretch between the USPS’s Phoenix, Arizona, and Dallas, Texas, distribution centers. Since then the pilot has ended, but the two sides are discussing “next steps,” according to the Tusimple representative.
The company was founded in 2015, TuSimple uses Navistar trucks outfitted with the startup’s own self-driving tech, which sees the world largely through nine cameras. Each truck is outfitted with a pair of LIDAR sensors as well, the startup is focused on developing a vision-based autonomous system, similar to what Tesla uses in its cars.
The startup is already backed by Nvidia and Chinese technology company Sina, and it has a headquarters in San Diego, California, and another in Beijing. Another important piece of Tusimple is its camera-centric perception solution. The system has a vision range of 1,000 meters. They also say that it has been helping UPS better understand the requirements for Level 4 Autonomous trucking in its network.
It is a reference to the Society of Automotive Engineers’ scale for self-driving vehicles, where Level 4 refers to full autonomy that’s locked to a designated geographic location. The trucks in use still have a safety driver and an engineer on board who monitor the system, like many of the other self-driving pilot programs currently running in the United States.
They are a bunch of other organizations working on autonomous trucking, including Kodiak and Einride to Waymo and even Daimler. TuSimple is one of the few hauling actual commercial cargo, albeit in a limited capacity on just a few routes. The partnership with TuSimple is the latest sign of UPS’s ambition to future-proof its business, especially as Amazon builds out its own delivery infrastructure. UPS is also working on a drone delivery service nowadays.
And it has electric trucks in the making while matching key amazon features. Rival FedEx recently announced that it didn’t renew its contract with Amazon, though UPS is still working with the tech conglomerate for now. The days when highways are going to be filled with autonomous trucks are far away. But UPS believes it’s worth jumping in at an early stage to take advantage of some of the automated driving such as advanced braking technology that TuSimple can offer today.
TuSimple and UPS will monitor all aspects of the trip like safety data, transport time and the distance and time the trucks travel autonomously.