Self-Driving Truck Startup "TuSimple" Confident of Commercial Driverless by 2021

-edited

TuSimple raised $95 Million in New Funding to support the expansion of its autonomous truck fleet.

Please consider Self-Driving Truck Tech Startup TuSimple Raises $95 Million in New Funding.

TuSimple is part of a stable of startups seeking to automate parts of long-haul and parcel transport with self-driving technology that uses artificial intelligence, laser sensors and cameras to navigate roads. TuSimple, Embark, Starsky Robotics and truck-platooning business Peloton Technology Inc. have drawn strong interest from venture capital funds and have struck a variety of operating agreements with truck manufacturers and operators to test their technology.

TuSimple’s technology is built around cameras that it claims provide better long-range predictive capabilities than lidar, the technology used in most self-driving passenger cars that offers a 3-D laser view of the environment.

The company’s cameras can see about 1,000 meters, or 3,280 feet ahead, said Chuck Price, TuSimple’s chief product officer. “From a half mile away we can spot emergency vehicles, cars broken down on the side of the road, people walking around,” Mr. Price said.

The company has two delivery routes in Arizona that deploy its technology on retrofitted trucks, with backup drivers and engineers on board, that haul loads for a dozen customers that it declined to name. The average run is about 200 miles and is automated from end to end, including surface-street navigation, Mr. Price said, although the trucks need a human driver to back up to loading docks.

TuSimple is working with truck manufacturers Navistar International Corp. and Paccar Inc. and components suppliers such as engine-maker Cummins Inc. The company will use the new investment to fund joint development with those companies to integrate autonomous software with powertrain, braking and steering systems as it pushes to achieve commercial scale.

“We are confident that we will have our first commercial driverless operation in late 2020 to 2021,” Mr. Price said.

Main Players

  1. TuSimple
  2. Embark
  3. Otto
  4. Starsky Robotics
  5. Peloton Technology Inc
  6. Waymo
  7. Uber
  8. Lyft

Of those companies, I am confident in Embark, TuSimple, Waymo, and Starsky Robotics.

Spotlight Starsky Robotics

In March of 2018, Wired reported Starsky Robotics Unleashes it Truly Driverless Truck in Florida.

Starsky doesn’t want humans in truck cabs at all. “We want to get people out of the cab because the work is unpleasant and dangerous,” Seltz-Axmacher says. Today’s trucking work, he argues, is bad, with uncomfortable work environments, long hours that leave little time for friends and family, and wages that aren't high enough to compensate for those downsides. That’s why annual driver turnover in large American fleets hit 95 percent in 2017, according to the American Trucking Associations.

Like Uber and Embark, Starsky’s trucks will handle the highway driving all on their own. But when a human grabs the wheel to negotiate the complex surface streets, they won’t climb into the cab to do it. They’ll work in buildings that look like call centers, monitoring 10 to 30 vehicles per hour via video links and using a videogame-controller-like wheel to take control as needed. (Today, the company employs four truck drivers.)

Which model of robo-trucking the future embraces is probably up to regulators as much as the free market. (Starsky, for its part, just announced a $16.5 million Series A funding round, led by Shasta Ventures.) Today, eight states permit trucks to “platoon”—that is, use sensor integrations and wireless communications to synchronize accelerating and braking between two or more vehicles, so that only one driver (the one in front) has to pay attention at a time. Peloton Technologies, a California company that has embraced platooning, says it will begin to make commercial deliveries this year.

Which Model Will Win?

I expect numerous models will win starting with Embark.

On February 3, 2019, I commented Amazon Hauling Cargo on I-10 in Self-Driving Trucks Developed by Embark.

Embark, Electrolux, and Ryder have partnered in a driverless truck endeavor on a 650-mile I-10 route.

Embark CEO Alex Rodrigues: "Embark, Electrolux, and Ryder are working together running the longest automate freight rout in the world. 650 miles starting in Texas and ending in California. On the Frigidaire line, we drive over 100 million miles a year."

"Embarks approach is unique. Our automation is designed specifically for the highway. We rely on Ryder's trucks and drivers to ferry freight between the warehouse and the interchange.

Embark's trucks pick up at the edge of the interstate and from there, the computer drives it 650 miles, all the way to California."

That is the model I envisioned a decade ago. Platooning can easily be a part of that model. And 8 states already allow it. I expect the US Department of Transportation (DOT) will soon mandate allowance in all 52 states.

Starsky’s model goes even further. It completely solves the "last mile" problem.

Competition

This level of competition guarantees one or more self-driving models will be successful.

There is no other realistic way of looking at this.

The timeline primarily now depends on approval from the Department of Transportation (DOT). It will come withing a few years, most likely two.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

Comments
No. 1-23
Sechel
Sechel

always believed we'll see self driving trucks before cars

ksdude
ksdude

Doing it out of concern that it's a crappy job is all time BS. Anything that involves $ is a target. If its a crappy job and not easily automated you can keep your crappy job.

ksdude
ksdude

On the flipside, being someone that occasional ships item via freight, I am sick of the continually rising prices. It's to the point where things I use to ship can end up in the junkyard if there are no local buyers its just not worth it. One of the problems is that people just complain about all the lost driving jobs. Not only will that be an issue, where are all these people going to go? That's right. Spill over everywhere. No more mouthing off to the mcdonalds drive thru guy that's now 300lbs and 6' tall. Of course, that job is set to end as well. I think guaranteed basic income is a legitimate discussion no matter the morals or problems with it. I mean if you want the country to turn into Haiti with millions with nothing to lose then you're all set. Problem this time around I think our tech is way too fast than in decades past for any sort of smooth transition. I mean to put that many out of work and then expect to roll along business as usual is a bit stupid. If not a lot stupid.

Clintonstain
Clintonstain

Mish, how much are you personally invested in those eight companies?

Of that amount, how much is invested in those focused exclusively on automated semi driving like TuSimple?

I’m trying to gauge your horseshit-to-reality ratio.

Mish
Mish

Editor

Clintonstain "I’m trying to gauge your horseshit-to-reality ratio"

Mish: Dear Clintonstain, I am not invested in any of those companies.

In case you haven't noticed, good companies don't always make good investments, especially in bubbles.