The Progression of Autonomous Driving

TuSimple goes public & Walmart funds GM’s Cruise.

Trucking is the backbone of America. Most, if not all items we touch in retail have been on a truck at some point in their transit history. With that being said, for decades the trucking industry has remained untouched. It has been one of those, it isn’t broken so don’t fix it type of industries.

Little innovation if any really has occurred up until recent years. Now fast forward to present day and innovation is everywhere. Just this past week we saw TuSimple raise $1.35b in their IPO. The sold 33.8 million shares of its Class A common stock at $40 each, under the Nasdaq ticker symbol TSP. The offering is expected to close on Monday (April 19), they now have an estimated valuation of $8.5 billion.

So what is TuSimple? They’re a global autonomous driving technology company, headquartered in San Diego, California with operations in Arizona, Texas, China, Japan, and Europe. Founded in 2015, TuSimple is developing a commercial-ready Level 4 (SAE) fully autonomous driving solution for long-haul heavy-duty trucks. TuSimple aims to transform the $4.0 trillion global truck freight industry through the company’s proprietary leading autonomous vehicle technology which makes it possible for trucks to see 1,000 meters away, operate nearly continuously while using 10% less fuel than trucks on the road today. They will introduce its autonomous semi-trucks in Arizona and Texas, where the company also has offices.

They were founded in September 2015 and now have backing from UPS, Navistar and Traton, TuSimple’s trucks are due to go into production in 2024.

They really have three main differentiators:

  1. Most Advanced Software: TuSimple has developed the industry-leading autonomous system specifically designed to meet the unique demands of heavy-duty trucks. Our proprietary software allows trucks to operate nearly continuously on highways and surface streets day and night, rain or shine.
  2. Strongest Industry Partnerships: TuSimple has established an unprecedented ecosystem of strategic partners bringing together world-class suppliers and manufacturing partners. Some of our strategic partners include Navistar, TRATON, Penske, NVIDIA, ZF and many more.
  3. Winning Go-To Market Strategy: TuSimple created the world’s first and most advanced Autonomous Freight Network (AFN) allowing autonomous trucks to transport freight from A to B safely and reliably. The AFN is currently active today and utilized by shippers, carriers and fleets.

My main question has always been, how safe are self driving trucks? According to them, self-driving trucks are safer because they can see more and react faster than a human driver. Unlike a human driver, TuSimple trucks can see all around the vehicle, and they can detect and react to potential threats faster. The average reaction time of a TuSimple truck is more than 15 times faster than a human thanks to its industry leading perception system that makes 600 trillion operations per second. The system also increases safety because it never drinks, never texts, never gets tired. The technology is designed to drive the steadiest and safest path possible.

What’s really cool about TuSimple is their trucks are SAE Level 4 which means they can achieve full automation without human intervention under defined driving conditions. Most other autonomous trucks are operating at SAE Levels 1 through 2 and, according to SAE guidelines, Levels 1 through 3 require consistent human intervention.

So a lot of exiting progress going on for TuSimple. Meanwhile, GM has invested in self-driving car company Cruise. This is a big win for Cruise as a major automotive company gets behind them. They haven’t only received capital from GM though. They have raised $7.25 billion in committed capital from General Motors, Honda, SoftBank, T. Rowe Price, and others. As mentioned, partnering with GM and Honda brings automotive expertise, resources, and credibility. This depth allows for them to focus on developing the unique software and hardware needed to make self-driving vehicles a reality.

The great part about this industry is the market is there. Today, there are 1.2 billion passenger cars that drive 9.6 trillion miles a year. Analysts estimate this global market to be worth $8 trillion dollars a year. Most experts believe that consumers will shift their behaviors towards on-demand ride-hailing with all-electric, self-driving vehicles.

I love the concept of self-driving cars not only because it’s pushing automotive progress forward at light speeds, but there are real use cases for this technology. I can think back on all the 3+ hour drives that I have had to make and how daunting it can be to drive through the night or for long hauls.

I’ll be keeping close tabs on both TuSimple and Cruise as the autonomous driving market continues to heat up.

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