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March 23, 2021 5:30 PM, EDT

Self-Driving Truck Developer TuSimple Files for IPO

TuSimple  truckTuSimple via YouTube

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Self-driving truck developer TuSimple is moving forward with plans to become a publicly traded company.

The technology startup on March 23 announced that it had filed a registration statement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission regarding its proposed initial public offering.

TuSimple said it intends to list its stock on the Nasdaq Global Select Market under the “TSP” ticker symbol.

The company declined to comment further on the filing.

TuSimple, founded in 2015, is based in San Diego and operates facilities in Tucson, Ariz., and Shanghai and Beijing in China.

The company is actively testing and developing technology designed to enable SAE Level 4 automated driving, meaning that the vehicle would be able to drive autonomously without human input or intervention, at least under certain conditions.

As it continues to validate its automated driving system, TuSimple is using its fleet of self-driving trucks to haul freight for industry partners such as parcel giant UPS Inc., grocery and food service distributor McLane Co. and truckload carrier U.S. Xpress.

Today, TuSimple’s self-driving trucks always have a safety driver behind the wheel as a backup, but the company is working to make unmanned, fully autonomous operation a reality.

TuSimple’s fleet currently operates on routes in the U.S. Southwest connecting cities in Arizona and Texas. Over time, the company plans to expand its autonomous freight network across major shipping lanes throughout the contiguous 48 states by 2024.

TuSimple’s IPO represents a new source of funding for the startup company, which claimed “unicorn” status in 2019 with a valuation of more than $1 billion.

“If you’re going to build this really complex technology and bring it to commercialization, you need money to do it,” said industry consultant Richard Bishop, principal at Bishop Consulting. “Startup venture funding is one way to do it. An IPO is just another way to open up some money channels.”

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While TuSimple’s IPO is a “cool” moment for the nascent self-driving truck industry, it doesn’t necessarily signal any change to the current pace of development for autonomous trucks, Bishop said.

“There’s already good momentum, and there are many players working on it,” said Bishop, who is an adviser to several companies in this emerging field, including Plus, a competitor to TuSimple.

Other companies developing various forms of highly automated vehicle technology for the trucking industry include Waymo, Aurora, Embark, Locomation, Einride, Torc Robotics, Kodiak Robotics, Outrider and Ike, which was acquired by Nuro in December.

TuSimple’s existing investors include some of North America’s largest truckload carriers, namely Werner Enterprises, U.S. Xpress and Schneider. Werner CEO Derek Leathers, U.S. Xpress CEO Eric Fuller and Schneider CEO Mark Rourke are members of TuSimple’s executive advisory board, which provides strategic advice to the company.

The technology developer also is working with truck manufacturers. TuSimple and Navistar International Corp. have announced a partnership to co-develop Level 4 self-driving trucks, with production targeted for 2024. TuSimple also is working with truck maker Traton Group to bring its technology to Europe.

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