TuSimple, UPS, Penske Plan Autonomous Freight Network

July 01, 2020 by Jerry Hirsch, @Jerryhirsch

Autonomous truck developer TuSimple is teaming with UPS and other major trucking players to organize what it says will be the first autonomous freight network.

The San Diego, Calif., company described the network as “an ecosystem consisting of autonomous trucks, digitally mapped routes, strategically placed terminals, and TuSimple Connect, a proprietary autonomous operations monitoring system.”

It said the network represents a safe and efficient way to bring self-driving trucks to the market.

Besides UPS, the partners include Penske Truck Leasing, motor carrier U.S. Xpress and McLane, a national logistics company owned by Berkshire Hathaway.

The goal is to create a nationwide network of digitally mapped routes connecting hundreds of terminals “to enable efficient, low-cost long-haul autonomous freight operations,” said Cheng Lu, TuSimple’s president.

“We will be able to quickly scale operations and expand autonomous shipping lanes to provide users access to autonomous capacity anywhere and 24/7 on-demand,” he said.

The network will roll out in three phases, relying on where the partnership has mapped trucking lanes and will use trucks that still have so-called safety drivers supervising the vehicle’s operation. The first phase starts this year and will offer service between Phoenix, Tucson, El Paso, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. TuSimple told Trucks.com that it plans to demonstrate driverless operations in some time next year.

In 2022-23 the network will expand with service from Los Angeles to Jacksonville, connecting the two coasts. The final phase will launch in 2023-24 and will expand driverless operations nationwide, adding major shipping routes throughout the lower 48 states.

The network will use U.S. Xpress, which operates 7,000 trucks, to help build its understanding of which trucking lanes will work best for the service.

“We are interested in understanding how TuSimple technology can make our fleet safer and more fuel-efficient as well as how it can improve the overall delivery experience for our professional drivers and customers,” said Eric Fuller, the carrier’s chief executive.

Penske Truck Leasing will help TuSimple scale its fleet operations through its network of 750 service facilities in North America. It also will provide preventive maintenance and over-the-road service to TuSimple’s autonomous trucks.

“Penske has always been committed to supporting its customers and innovation when it comes to mobility,” said Bill Combs, vice president of connected vehicle strategy and experimentation.

Jerry Hirsch June 22, 2020
Autonomous vehicle pioneer Chris Urmson discusses the risks and benefits of developing self-driving cars and trucks.

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