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February 4, 2022 10:56 AM, EST

TuSimple to Haul Union Pacific Goods Between Tucson, Phoenix

TuSimpleTuSimple/Nati Harnik/Associated Press

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Self-driving truck developer TuSimple says Union Pacific Railroad will be its first customer to move freight on the company’s fully automated trucking route between Tucson and Phoenix, after making a test run on a similar route in December.

The driverless freight runs for Union Pacific will begin this spring from the Port of Tucson intermodal transportation center on the southeast side to a terminal in Phoenix, said San Diego-based TuSimple.

TuSimple, which has been running test runs with human monitors in the trucks since 2017, said it plans to expand its “Driver Out” program to incorporate daytime runs and new routes with a goal of reaching reach commercial viability by the end of 2023.

December’s nighttime test run, which was coordinated with transportation authorities and monitored by law enforcement, was the first time an autonomous heavy truck has operated on open public roads without a human in the vehicle and without human intervention.

TuSimple said that since then, the company has had an additional six successful fully autonomous runs, covering more than 550 cumulative miles on open public roads in varying traffic situations.

“Our repeatable and scalable ‘Driver Out’ operations marks a significant inflection point in our company’s history,” said TuSimple President and CEO Cheng Lu. “We are proud of our on-time delivery of this historic milestone and are excited to shift our full focus to commercializing our groundbreaking technology on an accelerated timeline.”

A Union Pacific official said TuSimple’s autonomous driving technology will help to scale the technology on its network and reduce supply chain congestion.

“Partnering with TuSimple allows us to extend our operations beyond our rail hubs and serve our customers faster and more efficiently,” said Kenny Rocker, executive vice president of marketing and sales at Union Pacific.

TuSimple also has been using its autonomous trucks to haul paid loads for partners including DHL and UPS as part of its testing program.

TuSimple said it will continue to work with transportation and law enforcement agencies in Arizona and the other states where it operates to gain approval for routine autonomous trucking.

Last July, the company opened a new freight facility in Dallas-Fort Worth to extend the company’s autonomous operations eastward, and allow for autonomous operations in the Texas Triangle, which includes Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Austin.

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