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UPS using autonomous trucks on route in Arizona

UPS took minority stake in autonomous truck company TuSimple

Working with San Diego-based startup TuSimple, UPS has been using autonomous trucks to haul cargo between Phoenix and Tucson in Arizona since May. With TuSimple claiming a 30% reduction in transportation costs, in addition to the testing, UPS’s venture arm recently took a minority stake in the self-driving vehicle specialists.

According to a statement from UPS, the goal is to fully understand how to implement Level 4 autonomous driving. Developed by the Society of Automotive Engineers and adopted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there’s a five-level scale that defines level of vehicular autonomy.

Level 0 refers to fully human control of a vehicle. On the opposite end of the scale, Level 5 refers to full autonomy in any type of conditions. Level 4, which is the current focus of the UPS/TuSimple work, refers to vehicles “designed to perform all safety-critical driving functions and monitor roadway conditions for an entire trip.

In the ongoing testing, a driver and engineer are both onboard monitoring relevant systems and tracking data points that speak to distance, transport time and safety.

UPS exec Scott Price, chief strategy and transformation officer, said the goal is simple: efficiency. “All of these technologies offer significant safety and other benefits that will be realized long before the full vision of autnomous vehicles is brought to fruition–and UPS will be there, as a leader implementing these new technologies in our fleet.”

TuSimple describes its tech in a three-fold manner:

  • A 1,000-meter “perception system” that operates at highway speeds and “provides 35 seconds of time to react;”
  • An artificial intelligence system developed in-house that can navigate “long distance highway driving and complex surface street driving;”
  • And the ability to operate in “adverse weather conditions.”

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