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

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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 (47)
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shamrock
shamrock

Starskys model will win. A vehicle will never be 100% self driving and the cheapest way to allow a human to take over is the "call center" approach, not the "backup driver in the cab" approach.

shamrock
shamrock

Exactly, so glad I didn't spend any of my gold buying stock in Amazon or netflix.

thimk
thimk

these delivery modes coupled with e-commerce require warehouse space .

look at projected growth.

Greggg
Greggg

Realist
Realist

Curious that you embrace the scientists developing the technology behind AI, computer tech, and autonomous vehicle tech, yet you refuse to acknowledge the scientists working on Climate Change.

Casual_Observer
Casual_Observer

Will be interesting to see the first time one of these crashes and loss of human life occurs. Tolerance for loss of human life is by computers is less tolerable than loss of human life by other humans imo. I'm sure the kinks will be worked out and computers will make flawless decisions like humans though.

Realist
Realist

Hi Casual. No technology is perfect, and there are bound to be growing pains. But since well over 90% of all driving accidents are caused by human error, this technology should reduce accident rates dramatically. I personally am looking forward to safer roads because of the technology.

2banana
2banana

Amazing how the free market pretty much figured this out. Yes, there was some R/D government money at first but a drop in the bucket compared to what the free market is doing.

No obama billion dollar subsidies picking winners and losers, no billions of tax subsides so rich Americans could buy one to virtual signal how they care for the environment, no "quotas" forcing Americans to buy their products and no massive kick-backs from these companies to "foundations" and political campaigns.

Mish
Mish

Editor

"I think you will find that many incidents involving a truck are caused by the other driver."

Define many as in percentage

Regardless, here is a set of true statements: Many truck accidents are caused by exhausted truck drivers. Many others are caused by truck drivers speeding to make delivery before they are forced to take a rest break. Many truck accidents are caused by driving carelessness or driving recklessness. Some but probably not many truck accidents are caused by drunk or high truck drivers.

Finally, the technology will be better at avoiding accidents even when the car is 100% at fault.

All guaranteed true.

Mish
Mish

Editor

"I'm curious how a driverless vehicle with cargo won't be prevented from being run off the road and having its cargo stolen."

I am curious how anyone can possibly think this is an issue. In fact, it is downright stupid to suggest it.

Cops will be alerted in seconds. There will be no time to break into the truck, unload the contents into another truck and get away. The whole thing will be recorded, including the guys unloading the truck as well as the vehicle they are unloading into.

St. Funogas
St. Funogas

Hey Mish, I agree with you 100% on self-driving technology. To me it's a no-brainer and just a question of when, not if.

I do disagree with the theft aspect. One of the main conclusions of the 911 Commission was that US Intelligence officials were just not "creative enough" to anticipate what terrorists with an IQ higher than celery might be able to accomplish. I think that is the same problem here with doubting that theft will occur, just lack of creativity.

I'm working on a detailed plan, (Jojo and I have a screenplay to write!), but for now, suffice it to say that no matter how quickly a human calls the police to report that their truck is being hijacked/robbed at GPS coordinates XYZ, there will be a time delay with police actually getting to the scene. Pulling a job at 2:00 AM when the fewest highway patrol officers are on duty and minimal traffic, at a location such as the 36-mile stretch between Desert Center and the truck stop near Mesa Verde, CA where there are no on/off ramps, is the time to do it. By creating a simple diversion, such as faking a car wreck by torching some junker cars on the side of the road, or smashing in a bank door in Mesa Verde to set off all the alarms, or multiple diversions, thieves can buy plenty of time to rob a self-driving semi. My more detailed plan involves robbing the truck as it is rolling down the highway using a stolen Ryder truck with the top of the cargo bay cut out, throwing roofing nails out across both lanes behind you to bring all pursuing traffic to a halt, and using specialized equipment built just for doing these kinds of robberies. Too many details to mention here but thieves will be constantly evolving new methods as quickly as programmers fix the old ones. That is guaranteed.

The movie The Bank Job was based on a true story, Everybody said it could never be done, yet it was. Robbing a self-driving truck is infinitely simpler than pulling off that bank job, IMO.

One question I have is, if you climb aboard the moving truck, and smash the driver's window with a crowbar, I wonder if you can climb in and hijack the truck? If the computers shut it down, no problem, our team can unload what we need, in place in under ten minutes. If the truck is driveable, we can pull it over and unload it in place. It will take the cops longer than that to get there. Our stolen Ryder truck has white contact paper stuck to the sides,which we peel off afterwards to reveal that bright yellow Ryder logo. Any witnesses in the eastbound lane will be reporting a white truck, not a yellow Ryder truck. But at 2 AM, it will most likely be too dark for witnesses to see much.

Mish
Mish

Editor

" My more detailed plan involves robbing the truck as it is rolling down the highway using a stolen Ryder truck with the top of the cargo bay cut out, throwing roofing nails out across both lanes behind you to bring all pursuing traffic to a halt, and using specialized equipment built just for doing these kinds of robberies."

What the hell does driverless have to do with any of that? How about Nothing

They can do that today. How is the driver supposed to stop it?

Mish
Mish

Editor

Reinstating the draft is a good idea as long as the President, Congress, and their families are obliged to immediately go to the most active war front.

Mish
Mish

Editor

"always believed we'll see self driving trucks before cars"

Cars could indeed be first - but not in a big way - Mass adoption by trucks before taxis get even 10% penetration

KidHorn
KidHorn

Another article about something that's a year away. Every year, they're a year away.

Mish
Mish

Editor

"Another article about something that's a year away. Every year, they're a year away."

Kidhorn can neither read nor think.

I came up with a timeframe of 2022-2024 about 10 years ago. The only thing I have done is move the date forward, not backward.

2021-2023 is more likely and I believe 2021-2022 will be it. Stop the stupidity

laprez
laprez

I guess there will be less bottles of urine laying around the roadside...

Grumblenose
Grumblenose

They should change their name to TuOptimistic. 2020 or 2021 indeed.