UPS Ventures, the venture capital arm of UPS, has made a minority investment in autonomous driving company TuSimple.
Both 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. This is an extension of the ongoing commercial relationship between UPS and TuSimple in which UPS has purchased transportation services from TuSimple.
The partnership aims to help UPS better understand the requirements for Level 4 autonomous trucking in its network. Level 4 means the vehicle’s onboard computer is in complete control at all times, eliminating manual intervention. Currently, however, laws regulating Level 4 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, Arizona. The company initiated self-driving service in May, 2019, with a driver and engineer in the vehicle. TuSimple and UPS monitor distance and time the trucks’ travel autonomously, safety data and transport time.
UPS’s chief strategy and transformation officer, Scott Price, said: “UPS is committed to developing and deploying technologies that enable us to operate our global logistics network more efficiently. 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 realised long before the full vision of autonomous vehicles is brought to fruition – and UPS will be there, as a leader implementing these new technologies in our fleet.”
Founded in 2015, TuSimple aims to bring the first self-driving truck to market, to increase safety, decrease transportation costs and reduce carbon emissions. TuSimple develops technology that aims to allow shipping companies to operate self-driving class 8 tractor-trailers that exceed 33,000 lb and have three or more axles.
UPS contracts with third-party trucking companies during its peak shipping season. TuSimple believes it could cut average purchased transportation costs by 30%.
“We are honoured by UPS’s strategic investment and their vote of confidence in TuSimple, this proves their commitment to staying at the forefront of innovation,” said TuSimple’s founder, president and CTO, Xiaodi Hou. “TuSimple is confident that it can accelerate bringing the first self-driving truck to market to increase road safety.”
UPS’s tests with TuSimple are part of an advanced technology evaluation for vehicles in the UPS Global Smart Logistics Network. UPS is investing in IoT technology, AI and advanced analytics to increase fuel efficiency and improve customer service.