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Driverless semi-trucks pose real solution to shortages, supply chain issues

Driverless semi-trucks pose real solution to shortages, supply chain issues
Posted at 11:52 AM, Mar 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-31 12:30:00-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — TuSimple is a company building and testing autonomous semi-trucks in Tucson. These trucks can successfully navigate side streets, highways and traffic signals, all while responding to surrounding cars. They have around 20 cameras that allow for a 360-degree vision of the road around the vehicle.

“The truck is capable of detecting when vehicles cut in front of it," said Koabi Brooks, Director of Technical Operations. "It will slow down if necessary to create a safe follow distance. It sees when cars are merging on the highway.”

Autonomous trucks could provide a real solution to recent supply chain issues. The American Trucking Association estimates there’s a shortage of 80,000 truck drivers in the United States.

“People were shopping more online, getting more product delivered to their houses," said Lee White, Vice President of Strategy. "What that means is more movement by trucks, there’s been more demand than ever for truck movements.”

In December, TuSimple’s truck became the first fully autonomous and driverless semi on the open road. The company is now accelerating toward commercial use.

“In December we did a technology demo showing the world that driver-out capability is closer than we think," Brooks said. "The path to commercialization is closer than the world thinks.”

People could start seeing semis without drivers in the next few months. This year, Union Pacific will be the first company to use TuSimple’s trucks without drivers to haul freight from Tucson to Phoenix. Other partners like FedEx, DHL, and UPS will use the trucks for commercial shipments starting in 2023.

“We believe autonomous trucking is coming to the industry, we believe it's going to be on our roads in the very near future,” White said.

This story was first reported by Paula Shaheen at KGUN in Tucson, Ariz.