20Global delivery company United Parcel Service (UPS) has announced that its venture capital arm, UPS Ventures, has made a minority investment in autonomous driving company TuSimple, with the two companies currently trialing self-driving deliveries in Arizona.
The companies are testing self-driving tractor trailers on a route in Arizona to determine whether the vehicles can improve service and efficiency in the UPS network. The on-road trials are an extension of the ongoing commercial relationship in which UPS has purchased transportation services from TuSimple. The program began with the goal of helping UPS better understand the requirements for SAE Level 4 Autonomous trucking where the vehicle’s onboard computer is in complete control at all times, eliminating manual intervention. Currently, however, laws regulating L4 Autonomous driving require a driver in the vehicle at all times to take over operation if needed.
Throughout the ongoing tests, UPS has been providing truckloads of goods for TuSimple to carry on a North American Freight Forwarding route between Phoenix and Tucson. The company initiated the 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 logistics company’s tests with TuSimple are part of an advanced technology evaluation for vehicles in the UPS Global Smart Logistics Network. UPS is investing in Internet of Things (IoT) technology, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and advanced analytics to increase fuel efficiency and improve customer service to ensure its place in the goods delivery market.
Founded in 2015, TuSimple’s mission is to bring the first self-driving truck to market, to increase safety, decrease transportation costs and reduce carbon emissions. The company develops technology that will allow shipping companies to operate self-driving Class 8 tractor-trailers, which are those that exceed 33,000 pounds and typically have three or more axles. UPS already contracts with third-party trucking companies during its peak shipping season, and TuSimple believes it could cut average purchased transportation costs by 30%.
“We are committed to developing and deploying technologies that enable us to operate our global logistics network more efficiently,” said UPS’ chief strategy and transformation officer, Scott Price. “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. 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 we will be there, as a leader implementing these new technologies in our fleet.”
TuSimple’s founder, president and CTO, Xiaodi Hou, commented, “We are honored by UPS’s strategic investment and their vote of confidence in us, this proves their commitment to staying at the forefront of innovation. We are confident that it can accelerate bringing the first self-driving truck to market to increase road safety.”
UPS Ventures’s managing partner, Todd Lewis, added, “Our mission is to build collaborative relationships with early-stage companies that provide capabilities and insights that accelerate technological advancements within our network and tailor them to meet our specific needs.”