TuSimple tests driverless autonomous truck in China

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TuSimple has taken the latest step in its journey to develop autonomous trucks, taking the driver out of the cab while demonstrating an autonomous semi on public roads in China.

The ‘Driver Out’ run was approved by the Shanghai government and conducted on 62 km of designated public roads including the Yangshan Deep-water Port Logistics Park and Donghai Bridge.

It was also put through its paces, addressing traffic signals, on-ramps, off-ramps, lane changes, emergency lane vehicles, partial lane closures, some fog, and crosswinds, the company says.

No human drivers were on board, nor were humans controlling the vehicle remotely.

“Being the first to conduct a Driver Out run in China is a significant milestone,” TuSimple president and CEO Cheng Lu said in a press release. “Following on from our successful Driver Out run in the United States in 2021, this accomplishment marks another pivotal breakthrough for TuSimple and further underscores our leadership in the autonomous driving industry.” 

Previous tests and a crash

The tech developer had previously completed a driverless demonstration in the U.S., when it completed a 130-km trip between a Phoenix, Ariz., distribution center and a rail yard.

It also recently began tests of Level 4 autonomous trucks on a Japanese freight corridor connecting Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka. That level of automation refers to vehicles that can drive fully autonomously without human intervention in certain settings.

But the development journey has also experienced struggles. A TuSimple truck hit a concrete median in Tucson, Ariz., in April 2022, although the company says the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration closed a related investigation without issuing any penalties. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration didn’t open an investigation in that case.

Navistar and TuSimple shelved co-development plans in late 2022, but said at the time they could work together again in the future.

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John G. Smith is Newcom Media's vice-president - editorial, and the editorial director of its trucking publications -- including Today's Trucking, trucknews.com, and Transport Routier. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.

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