Autonomous truck driving technology startup TuSimple said it successfully completed this month what it bills as "the world's first fully autonomous semi-truck run on open public roads without a human in the vehicle and without human intervention."
The fully driverless run took place Dec. 22 with TuSimple's upfitted autonomous semi-truck beginning its journey from a railyard in Tucson, Arizona, and traveling more than 80 miles on surface streets and highways at night, to its destination – a high-volume distribution center in the Phoenix metro area. Along the journey, TuSimple's Autonomous Driving System (ADS) navigated surface streets, traffic signals, on-ramps, off-ramps, emergency lane vehicles and highway lane changes in open traffic while interacting with other motorists.
TuSimple President and CEO Cheng Lu said the test reinforced what his company believes is its "unique position at the forefront of autonomous trucking, delivering advanced driving technology at commercial scale. This year, we were laser-focused on putting our technology through a rigorous test on open public roads under real-world conditions, and to see all our hard work and dedication come together is extremely rewarding. By achieving this momentous technical milestone, we demonstrated the advanced capabilities of TuSimple's autonomous driving system and the commercial maturity of our testing process, prioritizing safety and collaboration every step of the way."
The one-hour and 20-minute drive is the first time a Class 8 autonomous truck has operated on open public roads without a human in the vehicle and without human intervention, according to TuSimple, and is part of an ongoing test program that will continue into 2022. The test was performed in collaboration with the Arizona Department of Transportation and law enforcement. A TuSimple survey vehicle was deployed to look for anomalies operating over five miles ahead, an oversight vehicle capable of putting the autonomous truck in a minimal risk condition (MRC) was trailing behind, and law enforcement vehicles followed half-a-mile behind as an extra layer of safety precaution.
The autonomous driving test was 100% operated by TuSimple's ADS without a human on-board, without remote human control of the vehicle, and without traffic intervention.
TuSimple's "Driver Out" pilot program is the culmination of 1.5 years of work to develop an L4 autonomous semi-truck with the level of redundancy, reliability, and consistency to safely take the driver out on public roads. This is a critical first step in scaling autonomous trucking operations on the TuSimple Autonomous Freight Network (AFN).