Self-Driving Truck Startup TuSimple Announced Partnership with Auto Supplier ZF for the Production of Autonomous Trucks

Self-Driving Truck Startup TuSimple Announced Partnership with Auto Supplier ZF for the Production of Autonomous Trucks

Author: Eric Walz   

With the coronavirus padametic severely impacting the U.S. and global economies, one of the most important industries is trucking, which is vital for the continued deliveries of medical supplies, food and other goods to keep grocery store shelves stocked and essential businesses up and running.  

Since trucking is such an essential part of economies worldwide, it's one of the reasons why some automakers and startups are working on the development and commercialization of self-driving trucks instead of self-driving cars. Self-driving truck developer TuSimple is one of these companies. The California-based startup announced today today that it established a partnership with global automotive supplier ZF. 

TuSimple, based in San Diego, was founded in 2015 with the goal of bringing level-4 autonomous driving technology to the trucking industry. 

As part of the new partnership, ZF will serve as TuSimple's default supplier for the hardware components required for autonomous driving. ZF will support the development of the company's pre-production self-driving system and eventually a scalable, production-ready system for the company's commercial self-driving trucks. 

The partnership is set to begin next month and covers the biggest markets including North America, Europe and China.

Founded in 1915, ZF is one of the world's biggest global technology companies and automotive component suppliers. In 2019, ZF reported sales of $39 billion. The company has a global workforce of 148,000 with approximately 240 locations in 41 countries. 

TuSimple and ZF will co-develop production-quality cameras, LiDAR, radar systems, steering components, as well as ZF's scalable and powerful automotive-grade processor ZF ProAI built using NVIDIA chips, which will run the AI-powered algorithms and software for autonomous driving. 

ZF will also contribute engineering support to validate and integrate TuSimple's autonomous system into production trucks, outfitting them for autonomous driving.

"A partnership with world-class supplier ZF is an important milestone for our company as we prepare to bring autonomous-ready trucks to market," said Chuck Price, Chief Product Officer, TuSimple. "Working side-by-side with ZF to refine and integrate our production-ready technology has allowed us to optimize our hardware stack and focus on scaling these technologies to make it possible for autonomous ready trucks to be mass produced."

Much of TuSimple's focus is on a long-range camera-based perception system for trucks. The system is specifically designed for long-haul semi-trucks with a vision range of 1,000 meters, which is further than any other autonomous perception system today, according to the company.

For the $800 billion U.S. trucking industry, self-driving trucks will help address a growing shortage of drivers, which is predicted to be as high as 100,000 drivers in the U.S. alone by 2022. Driverless trucks can also improve safety and productivity, while significantly reducing operating costs. 

The company operates a fleet of more than 40 autonomous trucks and has 18 contracted customers so far. TuSimple is making 20 autonomous trips each week between Arizona and Texas for companies including the United Parcel Service (UPS).

UPS is also an investor in TuSimple. The package delivery company announced in Aug 2019 that it bought a minority stake in the startup. The investment is from UPS Ventures, the venture capital arm of UPS. The companies did not disclose the dollar amount of the investment. TuSimple's valuation now tops $1 billion. 

The company plans to start its driverless truck operations in 2021.

Eric Walz
Eric Walz
Originally hailing from New Jersey, Eric is a automotive & technology reporter covering the high-tech industry here in Silicon Valley. He has over 15 years of automotive experience and a bachelors degree in computer science. These skills, combined with technical writing and news reporting, allows him to fully understand and identify new and innovative technologies in the auto industry and beyond. He has worked at Uber on self-driving cars and as a technical writer, helping people to understand and work with technology.
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