July 06 2020

‘IN THE LOOP’: TuSimple - Are Self-Driving Trucks the future?

Based out of San Diego, TuSimple is an autonomous trucking company who design self-driving vehicles.
Valued at $1 billion dollars, the Company has made plans to completely revolutionise the way trucking Businesses carry out their work. They seek to cut fuel costs, journey times and save drivers the burden of long journeys (a claim which as been questioned by many in the Industry).
The owner, Xiaodi Hou, has been gaining momentum since 2015 when TuSimple was founded, and the Company aims to target issues of long-distance deliveries and hefty shifts carried out by drivers.

It’s not exactly what you think, yet

Before you jump to conclusions, this does not mean there will be huge fleets of human-less 18 wheelers all across the Globe. The Company has primarily launched its innovations in the US and Canada, and these trucks will still need an engineer and driver present while on the roads.
Despite this locality, TuSimple has offices in Beijing and Japan, with Hou stated that they “will expand its presence further in the next two to three years “ given the prediction of the company’s steadily growing momentum.
Currently, they adapt trucks and vehicles with the technology, but they hope that by 2023 they will have been able to manufacture and release their own self-driving trucks onto the roads.
Global giants UPS have already made large investments in the San Diego Start-up, and along with a variety of other investors, TuSimple had a total of $298 million in investments in 2019.

What does this mean for the Trucking Industry?

One of the biggest scepticisms about TuSimple’s ambitions surrounds jobs - If fewer people are needed for Trucking Businesses to operate, then surely it will mean a large portion of the Industry is out of work?
TuSimple was criticised for its apparent lack of acknowledgement for these anxieties, but Hou has said that the Company does not compare, or want to compete with the existing Trucking Industry.
Despite this, he has also called long-haul driving “a tarnish on the glory of humanity.”
Further criticism has questioned Hou’s assumptions - What if not all long-haul drivers dislike their jobs? What if workers enjoy the lifestyle?
The idea of (semi) self-driving trucks on the roads, it is easy to understand worries from the Industry regarding the future of workers in the industry, despite some workers still being needed for maintenance and safeguarding purposes.
With valid critiques and queries over Hou’s statements aside, the process of getting these trucks on the roads on a large scale will be very gradual, and the transition will no doubt reveal answers surrounding job insecurity and the future of the traditional trucking Industry.
References
https://www.businessinsider.com/tusimple-founder-trucker-hours-tarnish-glory-humanity-2019-12
https://www.forbes.com/sites/alanohnsman/2019/09/17/tusimple-hauls-in-120-million-to-speed-self-driving-truck-rd/
https://techcrunch.com/2019/09/17/tusimple-adds-another-120-million-to-its-self-driving-trucks-war-chest/
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