Autonomous truck startup TuSimple has reported that it is set to test its operator-less human-security system on public roads before the end of the year. During the startup’s third-quarter earnings call on Wednesday, TuSimple announced plans to continue its pilot outing program, which would remove the driver for races on the 80-mile road between the Phoenix and Tucson areas.
“We plan to complete the first pilot tests before the end of the year and complete the professional pilot program within the next few months,” said Cheng Lu, President and CEO of TuSimple, at the call. “As a reminder, the release pilot will consist of multiple runs over several weeks and is an important part of ongoing technological development in many dimensions, including software, hardware and go-to-market. What makes the Out of Service Driver Pilot Program so difficult is that we solve the known and unknown factors that we might encounter on public roads. This includes non-compliant engines, unplanned road construction and changing driving conditions, all of which need to be continuously monitored and counted in real time. “
If TuSimple can start this program before 2022, it will place the company in one of the leading positions in the face of the competition. Kodiak Robotics, for example, only started driving tests on closed tracks. Embark is not currently testing on public roads without a human safety driver, but plans a pilot for 2023 and targets commercial driver operations by 2024. Waymo Via is not currently testing in “pilot only” mode, but is testing with two autonomous specialists in the cab of the vehicle, one in the driver’s seat and the other acting as a software technician. Swedish freight company Einride, which has just launched its operations in the United States, has been driverless in Europe for a few years now, but will only operate without a human driver in the United States on the closed campus of its partner GE Appliances.
“In the coming weeks, we plan to ‘freeze’ our technological development so that it can be used in the final tests on open roads with a safety driver and on a test track with no one inside the vehicle. “, according to the TuSimple earnings report. “This test phase will inform and validate our safety case. Once we have completed the safety validation process, our team can then proceed to remove the driver from the vehicle for our 80 mile run on public roads. “
In other words, TuSimple believes its technology is ready to operate fully autonomously, at least on a specific stretch of road, and will spend the next few weeks working out its safety case. The company described two main areas for validating its driver safety record: “Systems Safety” and “Operational Safety”.
Systems Safety confirms that trucks can safely operate autonomously by helping every aspect of the system to be reliable, fail-safe, sufficient and proven, Lu said. Operations Safety “supports every aspect of our operations. drivers to prepare for and prove by creating safe processes and procedures, “said Lu.” Operation Safety confirms that we have monitored and sorted out every possible driving event, assessed the level of safety risk of the event and the ” assigned for resolution by the engineering teams. “
Beyond the driver, TuSimple faces some challenges in the Tier 1 supply chain to get past the drive tests and actually put more vehicles on the road. In the short term, Lu highlighted supply chain disruptions and labor shortages. In the long term, the challenge TuSimple sees in the large-scale deployment of autonomous technology is the maturity of the supply chain.
“It really revolves around the key Tier 1 components like compute, Autonomous Domain Controller (ADC), or redundant actuation, steering and braking,” Lu said. “And so there’s a bit of Goosebumps is going on in there because Tier 1s don’t want to engage in investments without orders, and that’s something we’ve identified as one of the risks and so we’re taking action to fix it… Over the next few quarters you will hear more announcements from us in terms of greater investment in the supply chain to make sure we can meet the schedule we have been talking about.
In the third quarter, TuSimple spent $ 85 million on R&D, which is an increase of $ 24 million, or about 3 times the year-over-year, and much of that was related to l hiring of technological talents and additional drivers. The addition of staff, along with the increase in commercial use of its fleet and the fleets of Autonomous Freight Network (AFN) partners, is what TuSimple credits as the reason it was able to exceed expectations of revenue of $ 1.65 million with third quarter revenue of $ 1.8 million.
“The ability to recruit new drivers and acquire new trucks for our fleet continues to be our primary source of headwinds for revenue growth, but we have been able to navigate this environment and are on track. to meet our revenue targets for the entire year of $ 5 to $ 7 million, ”according to the earnings report.
TuSimple’s net loss per share, at $ 0.54, was higher than the expected $ 0.49. However, the startup increased its revenue growth 2.5 times from the third quarter of last year, reaching around 945,000 miles, up from around 379,000, but quarter over quarter is much less impressive – in the second quarter, TuSimple drove around 880,000 revenue miles, which means there’s only a 7% increase.
During the earnings call, TuSimple also said it is mapping new freight routes with UPS from Arizona, where the company has most of its operations, to Florida. The company plans to expand its AFN across the United States by 2024 and recently partnered with freight management firm Ryder to help achieve that goal. Now, TuSimple is working with UPS Supply Chain Solutions to expand its AFN ahead of schedule on the east coast to reach UPS North America Air Freight (NAAF) terminals in Orlando and Charlotte, where the company already has high-definition mapped routes.
Since 2019, when TuSimple’s partnership with UPS began, the company has completed 160,000 miles of freight transport for NAAF and claims to have saved 13% on fuel at speeds between 55 and 68 miles per hour. In the third quarter, when the company expanded its AFN from Dallas to Charlotte, it mapped 1,400 new unique miles, bringing the total mapped unique miles to 9,900. TuSimple said it expects quality The map is continually improving due to new mapping technology which is refined for dynamic, low latency updates, reducing update times from weeks to days and, in the long run, to minutes .