TuSimple, the self-driving truck company that went public earlier this year, has partnered with Ryder as part of its plan to build out a freight network that will support its autonomous trucking operations.
Under the deal announced this week, Ryder’s fleet maintenance facilities will act as terminals for TuSimple’s freight network. TuSimple’s so-called AFN, or autonomous freight network, is a collection of shipping routes and airports designed for independent trucking operations that will extend across the United States by 2024. UPS, which took a minority stake in TuSimple before it went public, carrier U.S. Xpress, Penske Truck Leasing, and Berkshire Hathaway’s grocery and foodservice supply chain company McLane Inc. were the inaugural partners in the network.
TuSimple’s AFN involves four pieces that include its self-driving trucks, digital mapped routes, freight terminals, and a system that will let customers monitor autonomous trucking operations and track their shipments in real-time.
Ryder’s facilities will primarily serve as strategic terminals where TuSimple trucks can receive maintenance and have sensors used in the self-driving system calibrated if needed. In some cases, the terminals might be used as a transfer hub for a smaller operator who wants to pick up cargo. But this is not meant to be a hub-to-hub system where its customers would come and pick up freight, according to TuSimple President and CEO Cheng Lu.
“These trucks need to be serviceable and maintainable, and they need to have higher uptime, which is what every carrier cares about regardless of whether it is autonomous or not,” Lu said.