China’s Robo-trucking firm TuSimple grabbed a new investment from UPS this week to speed up its commercialization process ahead of competitors like Nuro and Aurora.
The new funds followed a USD 95 million Series D round of funding in February that boosted the company’s valuation to upwards of USD 1 billion. Neither TuSimple nor UPS's venture capital arm disclosed the funding amount.
UPS now is using TuSimple’s technology to test autonomous driving cars in Arizona to boost on-road safety and efficiency. UPS moved about 21 million packages per day last year. As it continues to invest in a smart global logistics network, it has expanded its cooperation with TuSimple by not only using TuSimple’s services but also taking a minority stake in the startup.
Cooperation with a delivery firm isn’t rare for TuSimple. United States Postal Service (USPS) has worked with TuSimple for two weeks to run its driverless trucks on the more than 1,600-mile route connecting the Postal Service’s distribution centers in Phoenix, Arizona, and Dallas, Texas. TuSimple claimed it can save 30% of the costs during the trip.
TuSimple’s backers have been busy. In May, Amazon was reportedly in talks with TuSimple to acquire the firm; Rumors started to swirl in June that the company was edging closer to a USD 200 million deal involving existing investors Sina and China’s leading PE investment firm CDH Investments June.
In the world of self-driving truck technology, competition has heated up already: Uber, Waymo, Amazon-backed Aurora and Softbank-backed Nuro have all begun research on automated trucks. Though the adoption of autonomous driving in logistics has become inevitable, several incidents resulting in fatalities or injuries by Tesla and Uber cars have alarmed regulators and the public.
“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," said Scott Price, UPS chief strategy and transformation officer, in a news release.