Chinese autonomous driving unicorn TuSimple turns its client UPS into an investor

The US logistics giant wants to see whether self-driving trucks can improve service and efficiency in its delivery network.

Photo: Shutterstock

The venture capital arm of UPS, UPS Ventures, has taken a minority stake in autonomous trucking solutions provider TuSimple, the company said in a press release on Thursday.

TuSimple develops Level 4 autonomous driving software, which means the vehicle’s onboard computer is in complete control of the vehicle at all times, eliminating the need for manual intervention. The company is headquartered in Beijing and San Diego.

This investment is an extension of the ongoing commercial relationship between UPS and TuSimple, where the courier has purchased transportation services from TuSimple since May, said UPS.

UPS revealed that both companies have been testing self-driving tractor trailers, with a driver and engineer in each vehicle, on a route in Arizona since May. The purpose was to determine whether these vehicles  can improve the UPS logistics network’s service and efficiency.

“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’s chief strategy and transformation officer. “All of these technologies offer significant safety and other benefits that will be realized long before the full vision of autonomous vehicles is brought to fruition—and UPS will be there, as a leader implementing these new technologies in our fleet.”

TuSimple develops technology that will allow shipping companies to operate self-driving class 8 tractor-trailers, which exceed 15,000 kg and typically have three or more axles.

The company closed its USD 95 million Series D round in February, which catapulted the startup to unicorn status.

TuSimple announced in May that the United States Postal Service will adopt its self-driving trucks to haul mail.