Autonomous truck startup TuSimple has received an undisclosed amount of funding from UPS, as the delivery giant looks to tap the boom in unmanned-driving projects.
Why it matters: China-backed TuSimple, one of the fastest-growing autonomous vehicle players, aims to disrupt the $700 million US freight market with fully autonomous Level 5 self-driving rigs.
- The deal comes a few months after TuSimple raised $95 million in D-round financing led by Sina, the operator of China’s biggest microblogging site Weibo, making it the first driverless trucking unicorn at a $1.1 billion valuation.
- The company has been testing rigs on a stretch of highway between Tucson and Phoenix, Arizona since 2018. It also won China’s first permit to trial trucks in the Lingang area of Shanghai later that year.
Detail: UPS announced on Friday that the company’s VC arm UPS Ventures had taken a minority stake in TuSimple.
- The two companies began testing self-driving tractor-trailers in March, followed by the launch of self-driving services in May, with a driver and engineer monitoring behind the wheel.
- TuSimple also recently completed five round trips in a two-week pilot for the US Postal Service, hauling goods between its Phoenix and Dallas distribution centers. A spokesperson for TuSimple said Friday that the collaboration would continue, without revealing details.
“While fully autonomous, driverless vehicles still have development and regulatory work ahead, we are excited by the advances in braking and other technologies that companies like TuSimple are mastering.” —Scott Price, chief strategy and transformation officer at UPS
Context: Freight companies have been struggling to find drivers to keep up with demand amid a labor shortage in the freight industry.
- The American Trucking Association estimates that the US needed more than 60,000 drivers by the end of last year, and that number is expected to triple by 2028.