TuSimple tests removing human driver from self-driving truck in China

Autonomous trucking company TuSimple last week successfully completed a series of fully autonomous semi-truck runs on public roads in China without a human present in the vehicle and without human intervention. The company claims to have completed China’s first so-called “driver-out” run.

This is the second time TuSimple has pulled the driver out of operations on public roads. The first time was back in December 2021 and took place along 80 miles of surface streets and highways between a railyard in Tuscon, Arizona and a distribution center in Phoenix.

The total seven runs in China were completed by one of TuSimple’s autonomous trucks on public roads approved by Shanghai’s government, including Yangshan Deep-water Port Logistics Park and Donghai Bridge, according to the company. They took place on a 40-mile stretch, during which the trucks had to navigate both urban and highway environments and a range of weather conditions, including traffic signals, on-ramps, off-ramps, lane changes, emergency lane vehicles, partial lane closures, fog and crosswinds.

TuSimple said the trucks navigated 100% of the runs with no disengagements. The autonomous system did encounter one so-called “minimal risk condition” due to a scenario that was outside of the truck’s operational design domain, a spokesperson told TechCrunch. The company will continue its driver-out testing in China. It’s not clear when TuSimple aims to commercialize in the country.

The move in China further suggests that TuSimple is doubling down on its Asia-focused business now that the company has decided to keep it. TuSimple had been weighing a sale of its China unit due to scrutiny from U.S. regulators, but after doing some housekeeping — involving several executive shakeups — the company said in May it would hold onto the unit. TuSimple has gone through multiple rounds of layoffs in recent months, and most of the staff that got the boot were based in the U.S.

Earlier this month, TuSimple began testing its self-driving trucks in Japan, marking further investment in Asian markets.

The company’s stock jumped 11% Thursday after the announcement, but has since fallen back down. TuSimple is currently facing a delisting from the Nasdaq for failing to file its last two quarterly results on time. A hearing is scheduled for June 22.

This article was updated with more information from TuSimple.