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Self Driving Trucks: What's on the Horizon?

July 6, 2020
Self Driving Trucks: What’s on the Horizon?

Self-driving trucks might be closer than we think. Continued advances in tech suggest that trucks might be autonomous by 2024. And not just that: company TuSimple believes they’ll be commercially available.

The ultimate goal? The Autonomous Freight Network. This three-phase plan will hopefully connect hundreds of terminals via mapped routes. The AFN would span the entire country and help bring transport costs down. Autonomous trucks may also prove to be safer and more fuel-efficient. The road to success involves a great deal more testing, however. So how do TuSimple and other autonomous truck companies intend to make the next big step in innovation?

Self-Driving Trucks Are Learning Our Roads

The AFN is a huge under-taking. The world has yet to see anything quite like it. But testing self-driving cars is already fraught with challenges. Testing self-driving trucks (which are much larger and carry more risk) is even more complicated. Currently, TuSimple intends to reach autonomous trucking in a three-step plan.

They’ve divided the work into phases. Firstly, Phase I will connect Phoenix, Tucson, El Paso, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. This is the phase we are currently in, with plans to keep working on it through 2021. Secondly. the AFN will expand services to reach from Los Angeles to Jacksonville. They’ve slated this huge step for 2022-2023. Once the East Coast meets the West Coast, they’ll move onto Phase III (2023-2024) in which driverless service will be available nationwide.

TuSimple is not alone in their endeavor. They’ve partnered with UPS, Penske Truck Leasing, U.S. Express, and McLane. Penske has already offered to provide maintenance on TuSimple’s L4 autonomous trucks. U.S. Xpress has offered additional lanes to help TuSimple test their technology. CEO Eric Fuller said, “We are interested in understanding how TuSimple technology can make our fleet safer and more fuel-efficient, as well as how it can improve the overall delivery experience for our professional drivers and customers.”

McLane expressed the desire to get ahead of the tech. VP Danny Austin rightly worries that if they don’t work now to understand it, once it arrives they’ll be overwhelmed. And with how quickly it all continues to advance, more companies might want to follow this ideology. Once TuSimple is done in the US? They plan to roll out the same strategy in Europe and Asia.

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