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Self-drive long-haul truck firm to expand in Arizona

By PAUL WELITZKIN in New York | China Daily USA | Updated: 2018-09-25 23:01
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A Chinese startup developing technology for autonomous long-distance trucking is expanding its test center in Arizona and expects to add hundreds of jobs over the next two years.

TuSimple, which has been testing its self-driving trucks in Arizona for more than a year, said it would expand its Tucson center on Sept 12, creating 500 new jobs in a variety of fields ranging from engineering and autonomous truck driving to office management.

TuSimple also will expand its autonomous fleet to 200 trucks in the US by 2019. With 500 trucks worldwide next year, TuSimple will possess the world's largest autonomous truck fleet. 

"We work with Peterbilt trucks hauling commercial cargo primarily in Arizona, and we are generating some revenue," company spokesman Robert Brown said in an interview.

While utilizing TuSimple's self-driving system, Brown said the trucks in the test fleet have a driver and test engineer on board to monitor the rig.

Unlike other companies that focus on the development of self-driving cars and other personal vehicles, TuSimple specializes in large trucks that haul cargo over long distances.

"We think it is a great first adaption of automation because it's easier to automate the highway or interstate than it is to automate New York City or Boston," said Brown.

Brown said long-distance trucking in the US is a "$700 billion market, and with a driver shortage that numbers around 50,000, (the segment) offers great potential for the future."

Self-driving trucks can take human error out of the system and have the ability to reduce accidents, traffic and emissions as well as increase fuel economy, Brown said.

TuSimple's camera-centric system is developing a vision range of more than 1,600 feet and can "see" 360 degrees around for a pixel-level interpretation of the visible environment, enabling a vehicle to locate itself within 4 inches of the road at all times.

"The stopping distance for a heavy-duty truck is about a football field (100 yards)," noted Brown.

The privately owned company raised more than $70 million last year from the likes of US chipmaker Nvidia, Chinese social media company Sina and venture capital funds.

Brown said TuSimple has headquarters in Beijing and San Diego, California.

"Our goal is to develop products for the two largest trucking markets in the world – China and the US," he said.

The company currently has 50 employees in Tucson and about 100 in San Diego.

"Arizona has actively supported the research and development of autonomous vehicles, and we are pleased to be expanding our footprint in the state," Xiaodi Hou, company co-founder and chief technology officer, said in a statement.

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