Autonomous Tech Exec Says Plan Is To Begin Replacing Truck Drivers By 2020

Little Rock, Arkansas – A new report in the Houston Chronicle reveals further insight into at least one autonomous technology developer’s plan to replace truck drivers with self-driving trucks by the end of 2020.

Chuck Price, Chief Product Officer of California-based autonomous technology start-up company, Tu Simple, recently gave an interview to the Houston Chronicle in which he lays out in more detail the business model the company is pursuing.

“The business argument for cars, to me, has always been weak,” Price told the Chronicle. “The business argument for trucks has always been strong.”

 

That business argument is so strong in fact, Price says investors are prepared to pour another $1 billion into the company. “We’re probably going to spend $1 billion to make this happen, and we have investors that are committed to deliver the funds over time,” he said.

Tu Simple just closed a Series D funding round in which the company raised a whopping $95 million. So, what is the plan exactly?

TuSimple’s business plan is to provide a self-driving subscription service. The shipping company will buy specially-equipped trucks, and TuSimple will operate and support them from the point of origin to destination.

Similar to the recent findings of the U.S. Government Accountability (GAO) study, which Transportation Nation Network (TNN) analyzed last week, the plan is to begin replacing long-haul truck drivers in the middle of the routes before attempting to do so for entire trips.

Price revealed the company is already hauling 3 loads per day for 12 carriers under “non-disclosure agreements” and running routes primarily throughout Arizona.


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The company also recently announced they are expanding their operating area into Texas along Interstate 10 and other major Texas freeways with destinations in Houston and San Antonio.

Currently, Tu Simple’s autonomous trucks are manned by what they call a “safety driver,” but the company intends to remove the driver from behind-the-wheel by the end of 2020.

Price says buyers are standing in line and ready to go once drivers are successfully removed from the trucks. “I find buyers right now who say that if you can make this happen, then I’m buying them by the gross,” Price said.

The reasons for this are simple Price explained. First, a driverless truck will be able to achieve up to a 50% better utilization per truck. “Since autonomy does not have the get-home-itis that a human driver has, it’s motivated in different ways,” Price said.

Second, Price claims their testing data proves robot drivers increase fuel efficiency along with safety outcomes.

 

The company recently unveiled a new proprietary camera it claims is capable of seeing 1,000 yards ahead of the truck, even at night.

The company says the camera, along with other sensors, allows the computer to plan lane changes and other driving maneuvers twice as far ahead as a human driver.

“We’re doing the full 360 degrees, 20 times a second,” Price commented according to the Chronicle. “We’re replanning our movement based on that 20th of a second.”

As for public acceptance of unmanned trucks operating beside motorists along America’s most congested and busy interstates, Price said he is not worried because it won’t take people long to ignore it. “I don’t think people will notice our vehicles very much,” he contended.

To read more of Price’s interview click HERE.

To read TNN’s full analysis of the GAO’s report predicting autonomous trucks could replace up to 900,000 long-haul truck drivers over the coming decade, click HERE.

(featured image courtesy of Tu Simple)

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