TuSimple said it completed its first drive of the autonomous truck without a driver in the cab monitoring the journey.
The San Diego autonomous technology company said it was the first fully automated drive without a human, although that could not be verified.
TuSimple said the drive took place in the Phoenix metro area on Dec. 22 and lasted 80 miles on surface streets and highways at night. The drive originated at a railyard near Tucson and terminated at a distribution center in Phoenix.
Autonomous Truck Test
“The one-hour and 20-minute drive is the first time a class 8 autonomous truck has operated on open public roads without a human in the vehicle and without human intervention and is part of an ongoing test program that will continue into 2022,” the company said in a statement.
TuSimple performed the test in collaboration with the Arizona Department of Transportation and law enforcement.
TuSimple said the robotic system was completely in charge of the truck. Besides lacking a human driver, it traveled without remote human control of the vehicle and without traffic intervention.
“By achieving this momentous technical milestone, we demonstrated the advanced capabilities of TuSimple’s autonomous driving system and the commercial maturity of our testing process, prioritizing safety and collaboration every step of the way. This test reinforces what we believe is our unique position at the forefront of autonomous trucking, delivering advanced driving technology at commercial scale,” said Cheng Lu, TuSimple’s chief executive.
He said TuSimple’s autonomous driving system navigated surface streets, traffic signals, on-ramps, off-ramps, emergency lane vehicles, and highway lane changes in open traffic while “naturally interacting with other motorists.”
“This year, we were laser-focused on putting our technology through a rigorous test on open public roads under real-world conditions,” Lu said.
The test had some safety measures. TuSimple used a survey vehicle to look for anomalies operating over five miles ahead. It had an oversight vehicle capable of putting the autonomous truck in a minimal risk condition trailing behind. Law enforcement vehicles also provided “an extra layer of safety precaution,” the company said.
TuSimple Freight Network
TuSimple said the test represented an important milestone in establishing its TuSimple Autonomous Freight Network. The company has described the network as “an ecosystem consisting of autonomous trucks, digitally mapped routes, strategically placed terminals.”
The network will roll out in three phases, relying on where the partnership has mapped trucking lanes. The first phase starts this year and will offer service between Phoenix, Tucson, El Paso, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio.
In the 2022-23 timeframe, the network will expand with service from Los Angeles to Jacksonville, connecting the two coasts. The final phase will launch in 2023-24 and will expand driverless operations nationwide, adding major shipping routes throughout the lower 48 states.
The network will use U.S. Xpress, which operates 7,000 trucks, to help build its understanding of which trucking lanes will work best for the service.