Autonomous truck startup TuSimple snags investment from UPS

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UPS Ventures, the venture capital arm of global parcel delivery behemoth UPS (No. 1 on the CCJ Top 250), announced Thursday it has made a minority investment in autonomous truck driving company TuSimple.

UPS and TuSimple, who currently hauls cargo on the road for 17 customers, are currently jointly testing self-driving tractor trailers on a route in Arizona to determine whether the vehicles can improve service and efficiency within the UPS network in an extension of an ongoing commercial relationship between UPS and TuSimple in which UPS has purchased transportation services from TuSimple.

Throughout the ongoing tests, UPS has provided truckloads of goods for TuSimple to carry on a North American Freight Forwarding route between Phoenix and Tucson, Ariz. The company initiated self-driving service in May with a driver and engineer in the vehicle.

TuSimple and UPS monitor distance and time the trucks travel autonomously, safety data and transport time. The package delivery giant is seeking to better understand the requirements for Level 4 autonomous trucking and the benefits of employing this technology for its Global Smart Logistics Network.

“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,” UPS Chief Strategy and Transformation Officer Scott Price said. “All of these technologies offer significant safety and other benefits that will be realized long before the full vision of autonomous vehicles is brought to fruition – and UPS will be there, as a leader implementing these new technologies in our fleet.”

“The UPS Ventures mission is to build collaborative relationships with early-stage companies that provide capabilities and insights that accelerate technological advancements within our network,” added UPS Ventures Managing Partner Todd Lewis. “UPS Ventures collaborates with startups to explore new technologies and tailor them to help meet our specific needs.”

Founded in 2015, TuSimple’s goal is to bring the first self-driving truck to market, to increase safety, decrease transportation costs and reduce carbon emissions. TuSimple develops technology that will allow shipping companies to operate self-driving Class 8 tractor-trailers.

In May, the United States Postal Service (USPS) contracted with TuSimple on a series of 1,000-plus mile trips, hauling mail between the Postal Service’s Phoenix, Ariz. and Dallas, Texas distribution centers.