Automotive

TuSimple's autonomous truck cuts 10 hours off 900-mile trek across the US

TuSimple's autonomous truck cu...
One of TuSimple's self-driving trucks in action
One of TuSimple's self-driving trucks in action
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TuSimple's self-driving truck is capable of Level 4 autonomy
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TuSimple's self-driving truck is capable of Level 4 autonomy
One of TuSimple's self-driving trucks in action
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One of TuSimple's self-driving trucks in action

With ambitions to establish a network of autonomous trucking routes across the US, transport startup TuSimple is taking some steady and significant steps forward as it proves its technology through trials and expands into Europe. The latest test run for its self-driving trucks involved hauling a load of fresh produce over hundreds of miles across the US, where it demonstrated that it can complete such tasks in a fast and highly efficient fashion.

Previously, we've seen TuSimple's Level 4 autonomous trucks use its variety of cameras and sensors to move goods as part of trials for the US Postal Service and shipping giant UPS. This time around, the startup has partnered with fresh produce provider The Giumarra Companies and Associated Wholesale Grocers to explore autonomous trucking's potential in the fresh food industry.

The trial started in Nogales, Arizona, where TuSimple's truck was loaded up with fresh watermelons from Giumarra's facility. The load was then carried across four states to Associated Wholesale Grocers's distribution center in Oklahoma City, where it was inspected and then distributed to stores around the state.

TuSimple's self-driving truck is capable of Level 4 autonomy
TuSimple's self-driving truck is capable of Level 4 autonomy

TuSimple's autonomous systems handled a 900-mile (1,450-km) leg of this journey, between Tucson, Arizona and Dallas, Texas, with human drivers managing the first and last sections at either end. It is required by law to have a human safety driver onboard for such operations in the US, but because the truck could operate nearly nonstop, it was able to complete this "middle-mile" journey in 14 hours and 6 minutes, compared to the 24 hours and 6 minutes it usually takes a human driver, which is 42 percent faster.

"We believe the food industry is one of many that will greatly benefit from the use of TuSimple's autonomous trucking technology," said Jim Mullen, Chief Administrative Officer at TuSimple. "Given the fact that autonomous trucks can operate nearly continuously without taking a break means fresh produce can be moved from origin to destination faster, resulting in fresher food and less waste."

Source: TuSimple via PRNewswire

6 comments
6 comments
Daishi
So it sounds like they cut time by allowing the human safety driver to sleep for a period during the middle highway section while the truck was moving? I get the autonomy thing but that sounds like a bit of a loophole for why the safety driver was present. I guess they could technically delegate the sleep period to a remote driver to temporarily operate as the safety driver while the physical one is sleeping? I guess it's not a bad idea and it's cheaper than sending 2 physical drivers.
paul314
Maybe the physical safety driver has different shift requirements. Regular drivers have a maximum of 11 hours in a 14-hour shift, followed by at least 10 hours of rest.

Having a human driver handle the beginning and end of the trip (getting between the loading dock and the highway) sounds like a good plan too.

Bill Corless
These systems use the lines on the road to guide it. But when snow covers the road, or fresh paved roads, it wont work.
mikewax
yeah it looks like trucking will be the first industry to really get hammered by autonomous technology. This may be the so-called shot across the bow of the whole capitalist paradigm itself.
Michael Gunn
This is a really disturbing trend. So are all of the truck drivers going to be out of jobs? What's next? Taxi drivers? I'm in IT and we're already automating that too. I hope someone smarter than me is working on how to address the major impact this will have on human society as a whole. Seems like corporations are moving too fast without thinking of the implications.
Daishi
@Michael Gunn, automation just allows people to be more productive. Productivity has increased for years and we have been succeeding at automating many areas for a long time yet we have no surplus of labor to show for it. If anything we have a labor shortage. Farming was ~90% of jobs at one point and now I don't know even one. When was the last time you saw a toll booth operator? I've physically been to my bank only twice in my adult life. I often ring out my own groceries instead of having a cashier do it yet my local grocery store still has a help wanted sign out front. If anything it just results in a marginal drop in the cost of buying groceries. Efficiencies in the shipping industry would further reduce the cost of groceries which has a small impact on many peoples lives.