New Trucks
8:18:45 2021-11-12 73

There's a shortage of truckers, but TuSimple thinks it has a solution: no driver needed

Right now, there's a shortage of truck drivers in the US and Worldwide, exacerbated by the e-commerce boom brought on by the pandemic.

One solution to the problem is autonomous trucks, and several companies are in a race to be the first to launch one. Among them is San Diego-based TuSimple.

Founded in 2015, TuSimple has completed about 2 million miles of road tests with its 70 prototype trucks across the US, China and Europe. Although these are simply commercially available trucks retrofitted with its technology, TuSimple has deals in place with two of the world's largest truck manufacturers -- Navistar in the US and Traton, Volkswagen's trucking business, in Europe -- to design and build fully autonomous models, which it hopes to launch by 2024.

TuSimple's latest road test involved hauling fresh produce 951 miles, from Nogales, Arizona to Oklahoma City. The pickup and the dropoff were handled by a human driver, but for the bulk of the route -- from Tucson to Dallas -- the truck drove itself.

"Today, because the system is not fully ready, we have a safety driver and a safety engineer on board at all times when we're testing, but we drove in full autonomy: the driver wasn't touching the wheel," said Cheng Lu, TuSimple's president and CEO.

The journey was completed in 14 hours versus the usual 24 with a human driver, mostly because a truck doesn't need to sleep. "In the US, a driver can only work 11 hours a day. We simply had a handoff when our first pair of drivers had to stop because they reached their 11 hours of operation," said Lu. That, of course, negates the advantage of an autonomous system, so the idea is that once TuSimple's trucks hit the market, there will be no need to have anyone onboard.

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