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TuSimple full speed ahead on automation

The self-driving truck startup is striving to deliver dock-to-dock level 4 automation for commercial trucks carrying cargo in the United States and China and has expanded into the port autonomous transport market.

   TuSimple, a self-driving truck startup, is full speed ahead in further developing its technology in the United States and China.
  TuSimple announced earlier this month that it has expanded into the port autonomous transportation market with its custom-designed terminal tractors, which are designed to transport containers within ports.
   The tractors are active at the Port of Caofeidian in China, and TuSimple is in discussions to deploy them in Shanghai, Chuck Price, vice president of product at TuSimple, told American Shipper in a phone interview Friday. TuSimple also is considering rolling them out in the United States.
   Price said the tractors are essentially day cabs with a cab-over design and are a little smaller than a typical Peterbilt Class 8 truck.
   The company initially has focused on developing and testing its SAE Level 4 autonomous trucking solution targeted at line-haul transportation. The Society of Automotive Engineers has established six levels of automation, with zero being no automation and five being full automation.

Company core. TuSimple has raised $83 million since it was founded two-and-a-half years ago, according to Price.
   The company has dual headquarters in San Diego and Beijing, where it has 70 employees and 100 employees, respectively.
   The two cities are TuSimple’s “tech development” areas, but the company also focuses on production development in Tucson, Ariz., which is its testing region in the United States, Price said.
   TuSimple’s phase one plan involves building up a fleet of 25 trucks in the United States and another 25 in China to move commercial cargo along a selected set of lanes. The trucks would operate with a test driver and an engineer.
   In the U.S., there are three trucks in Tucson now that are in the testing phase. An additional three have left the Peterbilt plant and will be ready for test operations in the next month.
    In China, roughly 10 trucks, also in the testing phase, have been rolled out so far in the Caofeidian region.
   TuSimple will be hauling cargo for revenue in phase one, which Price said TuSimple intends to start at the end of this year.
   Phase two will involve the product being available through the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to other fleet purchasers, he said.
   Safety is a top priority for TuSimple, Price explained, adding that TuSimple’s automated trucks are very different from passenger cars running on full automation that require a regular drivers license and a day or so of training from the company. TuSimple’s drivers require a much more extensive curriculum, meaning a higher degree of safety, he said.

A different path. Price said that to distinguish itself from its competition, TuSimple is striving to deliver dock-to-dock level 4 automation and that TuSimple believes the idea of a transfer hub right before getting to the destination would not be attractive to carriers and shippers.
   TuSimple also has rejected the idea that it is possible to make remote control driving of vehicles safe, he added.
   In regard to TuSimple’s technology, Price explained that instead of lidar, the company has chosen to use cameras to achieve the 360-degree view. He said this option is not only cheaper than lidar but also can sense objects at a farther distance.
   The best lidar costs $60,000 to $80,000 per unit and at least two are needed. Although prices are dropping into the $20,000 range, it is still far too much, Price said.   
   Cameras require a lot more software technology to make them work, and that has caused many autonomous vehicle startups to turn to lidar, he explained.