Officials at TuSimple, a Chinese autonomous vehicle technology firm, have begun planning a 120-mile, self-driving trucking project that will hit the road from Tucson to Phoenix, Arizona later this year. The company announced the project just four months after broadly signaling its intentions to test self-driving semis in the Grand Canyon State.
“We are testing at our Tucson facility in the first half of the year. By September, we will move to [operating for] a commercial shipper of cargo to generate revenues,” said Chuck Price, TuSimple partner and vice president of product.
Price did not say who the first commercial shipping client will be, nor did he give an exact launch date. However, TuSimple officials will enlist Peterbilt’s Class 8 tractor-trailers to house their Level 4 high automation technology.
The autonomous trucks would do most of the driving, though an experienced driver would still remain behind the wheel for the entirety of the trip. This combination allows the trucks to operate without human control unless a situation arises that calls for driver intervention.
Last summer, TuSimple engineers completed a similar 200-mile road test from San Diego, California to Yuma, Arizona. The technology proved competent when traveling on and off highways and even in depot parking lots, Price said.
Three trucks running on TuSimple tech have travelled about 10,000 miles through Arizona testing grounds so far. By the end of 2018, the autonomous vehicle company will enlarge its fleet to 25 trucks, with future goals of deploying 50 autonomous trucks in the U.S. and China.
In an autonomous shipping world that’s already populated by viable contenders, every truck will count.