UPS strategically invests in Tucson-based self-driving truck company

UPS has made a strategic investment in Tucson-based autonomous driving company TuSimple. 

UPS announced that its venture capital arm, UPS Ventures, made a minority investment in TuSimple last week.

“The UPS Ventures mission is to build collaborative relationships with early-stage companies that provide capabilities and insights that accelerate technological advancements within our network,” UPS Ventures Managing Partner Todd Lewis said in a statement. “UPS Ventures collaborates with startups to explore new technologies and tailor them to help meet our specific needs.” 

TuSimple and UPS were already testing self-driving tractor-trailers in Arizona to see if the vehicles could improve service and efficiency in the UPS network. The investment announcement is an extension of the company’s ongoing relationship.

“We are honored by UPS’s strategic investment and their vote of confidence in TuSimple, this proves their commitment to staying at the forefront of innovation,” TuSimple’s Founder, President & CTO Xiaodi Hou said in a statement. “TuSimple is confident that it can accelerate bringing the first self-driving truck to market to increase road safety.” 

According to UPS, the company began working with TuSimple with the goal of “helping UPS better understand the requirements for Level 4 Autonomous trucking in its network.” 

“UPS is committed to developing and deploying technologies that enable us to operate our global logistics network more efficiently,” UPS Chief Strategy and Transformation Officer Scott Price said in a statement. “While fully autonomous, driverless vehicles still have development and regulatory work ahead, we are excited by the advances in braking and other technologies that companies like TuSimple are mastering. All of these technologies offer significant safety and other benefits that will be realized long before the full vision of autonomous vehicles is brought to fruition – and UPS will be there, as a leader implementing these new technologies in our fleet.” 

UPS contracts with third-party trucking companies during the peak shipping season, TuSimple is one of those companies. According to TuSimple, using their service could cut average purchased transportation costs by 30 percent.

But working with UPS on autonomous vehicle delivery also allows TuSimple to better test their technology in real-world environments.

“It’s really important to work with a company like UPS,” TuSimple spokesperson Stacy Morris said. “When a company is doing testing on their own, they might cherry-pick the best time of day to do testing, where there’s not a lot of traffic and the weather conditions are better, but when you’re working with a big company like UPS you don’t have that luxury.”

UPS’s tests with TuSimple are part of the company’s advanced technology evaluation for vehicles in the UPS Global Smart Logistics Network. Their investments in things like the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and advanced analytics allow the company to increase fuel efficiency and improve customer service. 

The investment also gives TuSimple a sense of credibility to other big-named companies looking to invest in the autonomous driving arena.

“Then other organizations are looking to work with TuSimple, they can see that a big company like UPS did their due diligence to make sure that the technology is class-leading,” she said. “That brings a lot of credibility to TuSimple.”

Photo courtesy of UPS

Emily Richardson

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