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ATLANTA: August 15, 2019. UPS Ventures has announced an unspecified minority stake in Chinese-backed autonomous driving technology company TuSimple.

TuSimple is helping UPS better understand the application of Level 4 Autonomous trucking which means the vehicle’s onboard computer is in complete control, despite the presence of a driver.

UPS has been providing truckloads for TuSimple to carry between Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona since May this year (pictured), with a driver and engineer in the vehicle. During its peak shipping season, UPS contracts with third-party trucking companies and TuSimple says it can cut such costs by an average 30 percent.

According to the American Trucking Association the shortage of drivers in the US could reach 175,000 by 2024.

“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,” declared UPS Chief Strategy & Transformation Officer Scott Price. “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 self driving truckFounded in 2015, TuSimple is developing technology that allows shipping companies to operate self-driving Class 8 tractor-trailers – those that exceed 33,000 pounds and typically have three or more axles.

In May the U.S. Postal Service awarded the company a contract to perform five round trips hauling USPS trailers more than 1,000 miles between the Postal Service’s Phoenix and Dallas distribution centres. Long-haul routes with short turnaround times, such as this 22 hour journey, are well suited for self- driving trucks because they are normally accomplished with driving teams of two, says TruSimple.

“It is exciting to think that before many people will ride in a robo-taxi, their mail and packages may be carried in a self-driving truck,” commented company founder Xiaodi Hou.

In a related announcement, the latest Cass Information Freight Index has reported a 5.9 percent drop in US freight shipments in July – the eighth month of consecutive declines.

“With the -5.9 percent drop in July, following the -5.3 percent drop in June, and the -6.0 percent drop in May, we repeat our message from last two months: the shipments index has gone from ‘warning of a potential slowdown’ to ‘signaling an economic contraction,’” said report author David Broughton.

“The weakness in spot market pricing for many transportation services, especially trucking, is consistent with the negative Cass Shipments Index and, along with airfreight and railroad volume data, strengthens our concerns about the economy and the risk of ongoing trade policy disputes.

“Weakness in commodity prices, and the decline in interest rates, have joined the chorus of signals calling for an economic contraction,” he added.

The Cass Freight Index accurately measures trends in North American shipping activity based on US$28 billion in paid freight expenses for the Cass customer base of hundreds of large shippers.

Cass report

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