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Autonomous VehiclesNewsTechnologyTop Stories

Self-driving truck startup TuSimple files for public ownership

Initial public offering describes go-to-market plans but delays pricing details

Self-driving truck startup TuSimple filed on Tuesday to become a public company. It is seeking to sell at least $100 million in shares. It could sell as much as $1 billion in stock depending on investors’ appetite.

Tu Simple filed its paperwork confidentially with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in December. The SEC completed its review, clearing the way for TuSimple to list on the NASDAQ Global Select Market under the ticker TSP as soon as next month. The filing left blank how many shares would be issued and at what price.

A company spokesperson declined comment on the amount the company is seeking to raise. Morgan Stanley, Citigroup and J.P. Morgan are lead book-running managers for the proposed offering. 

TuSimple chose to go public through a traditional initial public offering. It passed on the popular reverse merger with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC). SPACs have been snapping up pre-revenue electrification startups. They now are setting their sights on self-driving car and truck companies.

A total of 58.9 million private shares would be converted. Sun Dream Inc., an affiliate of Chinese tech firm Sina Corp. is the top shareholder with 31 million shares. Sun Dream is an affiliate of Chinese tech firm Sina Corp. led by TuSimple board chairman Charles Chao.

Cofounders Mo Chen, TuSimple’s executive chairman, and Xiaodi Hou, chief technology officer, own 14.4 million and 13.4 million shares, respectively. Truck maker Navistar International Corp. (NYSE: NAV) holds 10.2 million shares. Chen and Hou each own 50% of Class B voting shares.

TuSimple, started in 2015, is based in San Diego and Shanghai. It claims more than 240 core technology patents.

TuSimple Holdings lost nearly $178 million in 2020. The company had $301.8 million in cash and equivalents as of Dec. 31. 

Go-to-market details

The SEC filing revealed several go-to-market details, including TuSimple’s goal to expand its autonomous freight network (AFN) throughout the continental United States by 2024. Forty-three states allow L4 autonomous semi-truck testing. Of those 24 states allow L4 autonomous semi-truck commercial deployment, according to TuSimple.

“We are currently mapping roadways at a pace of over 250 miles per week,” the company said in its SEC filing.

TuSimple’s 50 self-driving trucks currently haul freight on dedicated routes in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. They generated $1.8 million in revenue in 2020. 

TuSimple also is testing 20 trucks with its software in China, covering 153,000 miles in logistics scenarios in Lin-gang Special Area of Shanghai. TuSimple is planning to test its system in Europe on a Scania truck traveling hub to hub between two Swedish cities. 

The trucks are equipped with Level 4 autonomous technology, which means they can operate without human involvement in most situations. TuSimple has a safety driver and an engineer on its runs today. With 2.8 million accumulated miles, It plans to go “driver out” this year. 

TuSimple plans to have revenue-sharing agreements with its ecosystem partners — among them major carriers like Schneider National (NYSE: SNDR), U.S. Xpress (NYSE: USX) and Werner Enterprises (NASDAQ: WERN).

“We believe that our unmatched partnership network creates a significant and sustainable competitive advantage, especially as we work with shippers, carriers, and railroads to strategically locate our AFN terminals near their distribution centers,” TuSimple’s filing said.

“In addition, carriers, shippers, and railroads will have the opportunity to significantly improve their operating margins by participating in our AFN as users and commercial partners, creating a powerful network effect.”

Mass production with Navistar in 2024

Tu Simple also has partnerships with Volkswagen AG’s truck holding company TRATON Group (8TRA.S.DX) and Navistar, which soon will be part of TRATON following a $3.7 billion merger approved March 2.

Navistar and TuSimple have taken 5,700 nonbinding reservations for the Level 4-equipped truck that Navistar plans to mass produce beginning in 2024. Deliveries will be based on customer specifications.

Carrier-owed fleets can pay TuSimple a per-mile, usage-based fee for access to TuSimple Path, which consists of onboard autonomous driving software, a cloud-based autonomous operations oversight system, HD digital route mapping support and emergency roadside assistance. 

Lower overall freight costs mean an expected payback period of less than one year on their upfront incremental capital investment to purchase a  purpose-built Level 4 autonomous semi-truck. Trucks financed through third-party fleet asset owners will serve asset-light users.

Self-driving truck technology startup nears stock offering

VectoIQ, US Xpress leaders included on TuSimple’s executive advisory board

Are SPACs redirecting blank check love to self-driving truck startups?

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Alan Adler. 

Alan Adler

Alan Adler is a Detroit-based award-winning journalist who worked for The Associated Press, the Detroit Free Press and most recently as Detroit Bureau Chief for Trucks.com. He also spent two decades in domestic and international media relations and executive communications with General Motors.

2 Comments

  1. I can’t help but wonder, in this litigious society we have in the U.S., who would be sued in the event of a traffic collision? The mechanical engineer, the software engineer, the mechanic that services the truck, the owner of the truck? This is going to be a very interesting time.

    Just an after thought, but what about computer hackers that may be able to assert control through a virus or some other hack? We never get the media to report on these things.

    1. Who cares! It’s about improving margins!! Just like manufacturing in China it’s cheaper to build and ship from overseas than pay your fellow countryman. Proud to be an American 🇺🇸 Chinese company they are known for quality. It’s tusimple

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