TuSimple, Union Pacific team up on first driverless deliveries

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Updated Feb 3, 2022

Autonomous driving technology startup TuSimple is ready to put the driverless in driverless technology. 

The company said Tuesday that Union Pacific Railroad – the largest Class I railroad in the U.S. – will become the first customer to move freight on TuSimple's fully-automated trucking route between the Tucson and Phoenix, Arizona metro areas this Spring. 

Union Pacific Executive Vice President of Marketing and Sales Kenny Rocker said partnering with TuSimple allows his company to extend operations beyond its rail hubs and serve customers faster and more efficiently, providing Union Pacific with "significant opportunity to scale the technology in our network, proactively reducing global supply chain congestion."

TuSimple completed what is believed to be the world's first Driver Out semi-truck run last year and has since recorded an additional six successful fully autonomous runs – the most recent of which took place last month. The seven total runs covered over 550 cumulative miles on open public roads without a human in the vehicle, without any teleoperation and without any traffic intervention. Runs were conducted in various roadway conditions, including dense early-evening traffic and "back-to-back" runs on the same night. 

Going forward, TuSimple plans to continue its "Driver Out" program and progressively expand its scope to incorporate daytime runs and new routes while making regular improvements to its proprietary AV technology. By the end of next year, TuSimple plans to achieve commercial viability by initiating continuous Driver Out paid freight operations in a significant shipping area such as "the Texas Triangle", which consists of Austin, Dallas–Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio.

"Our repeatable and scalable Driver Out operations marks a significant inflection point in our company's history. We are the world's first to complete all of the features of AV trucking technology," said Cheng Lu, President, and CEO, TuSimple. "We are proud of our on-time delivery of this historic milestone and are excited to shift our full focus to commercializing our ground-breaking technology on an accelerated timeline."

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TuSimple continues to advance autonomous freight lanes across the sunbelt. To scale its operations in preparation for a nationwide expansion, the company recently provided technical specifications to commercial real-estate developers to prepare for future autonomous trucking operations, including a million square foot state-of-the-art facility within a 27,000-square-acre development as part of the AllianceTexas.

To date, TuSimple has more than 11,000 unique mapped miles in its Autonomous Freight Network and plans to continue to scale its operations to support its distribution partners.

Jason Cannon has written about trucking and transportation for more than a decade and serves as Chief Editor of Commercial Carrier Journal. A Class A CDL holder, Jason is a graduate of the Porsche Sport Driving School, an honorary Duckmaster at The Peabody in Memphis, Tennessee, and a purple belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu. Reach him at [email protected].