Autonomous trucks hold more immediate promise for deployment than robotaxis, industry experts say. Compared to complex city roads—where a myriad of challenges abound, from navigating heavy congestion to watching out for jaywalkers—highways and lonely ports are relatively easy to navigate.

While a number of companies developing autonomous trucks are focusing on full autonomy, it’s not strictly necessary. More immediate applications lie in the realm of semi-autonomous rigs.

China-backed Tusimple is one of the pioneers of highly autonomous trucks, which can drive themselves under certain road conditions. Founded in 2015, the San Diego- and Beijing-based startup has secured $178 million in funding. It is now worth a whopping $1.1 billion, making it the world’s first autonomous trucking unicorn.

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Jill Shen

Jill Shen is Shanghai-based technology reporter. She covers Chinese mobility, autonomous vehicles, and electric cars. Connect with her via e-mail: jill.shen@technode.com or Twitter: @yushan_shen

Chris Udemans

Christopher Udemans is a Shanghai-based data and graphics reporter. He covers Chinese artificial intelligence, mobility, and cybersecurity. You can contact him at chrisudemans [at] technode [dot] com.