Cargo and mails have been delivered inside Arizona by self-driving trucks that people don’t even know about as UPS has only announced this week that they have been using TuSimple, a self-driving car startup, to move cargo around the state for quite some time.
The announcement comes with the disclosure that UPS has also made a funding venture to help the startup. Since May, TuSimple autonomous trucks have been hauling UPS loads on a 115-mile route between Phoenix and Tucson.
The shipping and cargo company confirms that this is the first time that they have used TuSimple’s autonomous trucks to deliver mails across the state.
TuSimple is a shipping and cargo startup that prides itself with autonomous and self-driving trucks, which, according to their website, would cut the average cost of shipping in a tractor-trailer by 30 percent. “Our proprietary AI is capable of long-distance highway driving, and complex surface street driving – enabling fully autonomous deliveries from one depot to another,” read’s TuSimple’s website.
They also advertise that they have road-safe autonomous trucks designed with an AI that is trained to respond to road incidents in the shortest possible time.
“At highway speeds, 1000 meters provides 35 seconds of time to react, enabling the system to make the safest and most efficient driving decisions,” reads the startup’s website. “Our perception system is designed to identify objects and obstacles, even in adverse weather conditions.”
The promising pitch of the startup has awakened the interest of huge shipping and cargo companies like UPS. In an announcement about their funding for the startup, UPS Ventures managing partner, Todd Lewis, said the venture arm “collaborates with startups to explore new technologies and tailor them to help meet our specific needs.”
The startup is also what shipping companies are looking at as a solution to the declining number of truck drivers in the United States.
“Long-haul routes with short turnaround times, such as this 22-hour journey, are well suited for self-driving trucks because they are normally accomplished with driving teams of two. Driving teams are challenging to recruit due to overnight driving requirements, the need to share close quarters with another person and a significant truck driver shortage,” said TuSimple in a press release.
In the partnership announcement from UPS, the shipping giant said that TuSimple has been helping them understand how to get to Level 4 autonomous driving where a vehicle is fully autonomous and able to reach a particular location. Right now, the TuSimple self-driving trucks still have an engineer and a safety driver tagging along the trip, but UPS is hopeful that with the help of the startup and the backing of huge shipping companies, they will be able to find a way to automize their delivery trucks fully.
Right around the time that UPS announced its partnership with TuSimple, the same deal was made between the startup and the United States Postal Service (USPS) to have a two-week pilot operation to deliver mail between Phoenix and Dallas, a 1,000-mile trip.
The pilot operation with USPS will involve five round trips totaling over 2,100 miles, estimated at about 45 hours of driving, and will pass through major interstates spanning Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.
The partnership with huge shipping companies could help the San Diego-based startup be more commercialized, the founder said. “Performing for the USPS on this pilot in this particular commercial corridor gives us specific use cases to help us validate our system, and expedite the technological development and commercialization progress,” Dr. Xiaodi Hou, ‘TuSimple’s founder, said in a statement.
“It is exciting to think that before many people ride in a robo-taxi, their mail and packages may be carried in a self-driving truck,” added Dr. Xiaodi Hou.
The startup aims to be the pioneer in providing autonomous trucks to serve shipping companies in the U.S., and it aims to boost the shipping industry as well.
“TuSimple is aiming to boost the $800-billion U.S. trucking industry by increasing safety, reducing carbon emissions and transportation costs, and optimizing logistics for fleet operators. With a 1000 meter vision range, TuSimple autonomous trucks are safer because they can see more and react faster than humans – rain or shine, day or night,” reads a press release.