Autonomous truck startup TuSimple has expanded its partnership with UPS, doubling the number of delivery runs its vehicles make for the American logistics company per week.

Why it matters: The extended alliance between the two companies is a vote of confidence for TuSimple, which aims to transform the country’s $800 billion trucking industry with fully autonomous rigs.

  • UPS’s venture capital arm in August invested an undisclosed amount in the trucking company.
  • TuSimple has been testing its technology on a stretch of highway between Tucson and Phoenix, Ariz. since 2018. The company also won China’s first permit to trial driverless trucks in Shanghai.

Details: TuSimple will increase the number of trips it makes for UPS to 20 runs per week, adding an additional 10 trips on a new route between Phoenix and El Paso, Texas, the company said in a statement on Thursday.

  • TuSimple will continue running 10 trips a week on an existing route between Tucson and Phoenix.
  • At the same time, the company said it had reduced fuel costs in its operations with UPS by 10%. Autonomous driving technologies are often touted as being more energy-efficient than human drivers.
  • UPS is using its partnership with TuSimple to explore ways in which autonomous technology can improve efficiency, safety, and customer service, Scott Price, chief strategy and transformation officer at UPS, said in a statement.
  • TuSimple currently has 18 contracted customers and makes around 20 autonomous trips per day.

Context: The logistics industry could see increased efficiency by using autonomous trucks as more people do their shopping online, putting increased strain on freight companies.

  • The US was short 60,000 truck drivers at the end of 2018, according to estimates by the American Trucking Association, which expects that figure to triple by 2028.
  • TuSimple was founded in the US in 2015 by Hou Xiaodi and splits its operations between the US and China, with offices in Beijing and Shanghai as well as in Japan.

Chris Udemans

Christopher Udemans is TechNode's former Shanghai-based data and graphics reporter. He covered Chinese artificial intelligence, mobility, cleantech, and cybersecurity.

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