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April 15, 2021 3:15 PM, EDT

TuSimple Raises $1.35 Billion Through IPO

TuSimple NasdaqCompany executives rang the bell to open Nasdaq trading on April 15. (TuSimple)

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Autonomous truck developer TuSimple raised $1.35 billion through its initial public offering, a move that will help fund the company’s push to commercialize self-driving trucks and expand its autonomous freight network across the United States.

TuSimple and an existing investor sold about 33.8 million shares at $40 per share, the firm announced hours before company executives rang the bell to open Nasdaq trading on April 15.

The IPO makes TuSimple the first stand-alone autonomous truck developer to go public.

The company’s stock is trading on the Nasdaq Global Select Market under the TSP ticker symbol.

“The investors that bought into our IPO, and the appetite for it, I think speaks volumes about the confidence that this is going to happen — that there are going to be autonomous trucks on our nation’s highways, and it’s going to be in the near future,” Jim Mullen, TuSimple’s chief legal and risk officer, said in an interview with Transport Topics.

Mullen, who joined TuSimple last year, was previously acting administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

He said the funds raised in the IPO will support TuSimple’s ongoing development work through 2024, when the company plans to fully commercialize its technology on purpose-built autonomous trucks through a partnership with Navistar International Corp.

James Mullen

Mullen

“We’re going to be extremely financially sound,” Mullen said.

The company, which currently has nearly 900 employees worldwide, plans to hire 400 more workers in the next six months, he said.

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

The company’s goal is 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.

Today, TuSimple’s self-driving trucks still have a safety driver behind the wheel while running on public roads, but the company is working to make unmanned operation a reality.

TuSimple plans to demonstrate a fully driverless run on a depot-to-depot route in Arizona during the fourth quarter of 2021. That route will cover about 100 miles and include interstate highway driving as well as surface streets.

Mullen said Level 4 automated trucks can address several key challenges for freight transportation.

“We’re going to help solve three of the fiercest headwinds that the industry has faced over the last couple decades, that being of course highway safety, the driver shortage and our carbon footprint,” he said. “Our mpg in autonomous miles is about 10% better than in manually driven miles.”

In the next few years, TuSimple will continue to refine its automated driving technology and focus on building freight volumes on its autonomous freight network, Mullen said.

RoadSigns

Even at Level 4 autonomy, self-driving trucks will have technical limitations. In this episode, we ask how technology developers are clearing those hurdles to make autonomous trucking a reality. We bring in Boris Sofman, head of engineering for the autonomous trucking program at Waymo. Hear a snippet above, and get the full program by going to RoadSigns.TTNews.com.

TuSimple’s fleet of about 50 trucks currently operates on interstate routes in the U.S. Southwest connecting cities in Arizona and Texas, but the company has outlined plans to expand its network across major shipping lanes throughout the country by 2024.

While testing and refining its technology, TuSimple is hauling freight for industry partners such as parcel courier UPS Inc., grocery and food service distributor McLane Co. and truckload carrier U.S. Xpress.

TuSimple is not alone in the quest to commercialize highly automated trucks. Other companies developing various forms of highly automated vehicle technology for the trucking industry include Waymo, Aurora, Plus, Embark, Locomation, Einride, Torc Robotics, Kodiak Robotics, Outrider and Ike, which was acquired by Nuro in December.

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