TuSimple, the La Jolla-based autonomous trucking company, has announced a new network that would bring self-driving freight vehicles to commercial markets for the first time. The fleet will be powered by digitally mapped routes, strategically placed terminals, and a proprietary operations monitoring system called TuSimple Connect. The Autonomous Freight Network (AFN) is the result of a partnership with UPS, Penske, U.S. Xpress – one of largest carrier fleets in the country – and Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary McLane Company, Inc.
TuSimple President Cheng Lu said the ultimate goal is to establish a national transportation network that consists of mapped routes, connecting hundreds of terminals to enable efficient, low-cost long-haul autonomous freight operations. “By launching the AFN with our strategic partners, we will be able to quickly scale operations and expand autonomous shipping lanes to provide users access to autonomous capacity anywhere and 24/7 on-demand,” Lu said.
The first phase of the distribution network is slated to be completed sometime next year, bridging Arizona cities Phoenix and Tucson, to Texas cities Houston, San Antonio, Dallas and El Paso (TuSimple operates autonomously on seven different routes between Phoenix, Tucson, El Paso and Dallas currently).
Phase two is projected to connect Los Angeles, California to Jacksonville, Florida, solidifying a West coast route to the East coast between 2022 and 2023. The final phase envisions a national network with driverless freight vehicles available commercially by 2024, with European and Asian networks on the horizon.
Level 4 Technology
Advanced self-driving passenger vehicles today rely on Level 2 (L2) systems with 250 meters visibility ahead. To account for longer and heavier, fully-loaded freight trucks, TuSimple developed L4 technology that provides up to 1,000 meters of visibility on the road ahead.
These L4 systems utilize Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) sensors for a detailed view 200 meters ahead, sophisticated Radar technology that can detect and classify objects within 300 meters and enhance visibility in harsh weather conditions, and High-Definition 360-degree cameras to provide the utmost safety for virtual drivers. This allows the system to effectively avoid problems, maintain efficiency, and keep the vehicle away from danger. L4 driverless trucks will be 10% more fuel-efficient than manually driven trucks.
U.S. Xpress will provide additional lanes to aid L4 technology, helping refine these automatous vehicles’ responses on the road, as well as access to its 7,000 trucks operating across the country
Penske will increase the network’s scaling efforts with its more than 750 services facilities thought North America, providing preventative maintenance and over-the-road services to TuSimple’s L4 autonomous trucks 24/7.
Bill Combs, vice president of connected vehicle strategy and experimentation at Penske, said its committed to supporting innovation in mobility. “We look forward to our continued collaboration with TuSimple and supporting their fleet needs as this new freight network begins to scale.”