On Dec. 22, TuSimple completed the first fully autonomous semi-truck run on open public roads without a human in the vehicle and without human intervention.
The more than 80-mile run — which TuSimple says was the first of its kind — required the company to upfit an autonomous Class 8 truck to run from a large railyard in Tucson, Arizona, to a high-volume distribution center in the Phoenix metro area.
The truck traveled on surface streets and highways at night. Along the journey, TuSimple's Autonomous Driving System (ADS) navigated surface streets, traffic signals, on-ramps, off-ramps, emergency lane vehicles, and highway lane changes in open traffic while naturally interacting with other motorists.
The one-hour and 20-minute drive is part of an ongoing test program, called Driver Out, that will continue into 2022. The test was performed in close collaboration with the Arizona Department of Transportation and law enforcement. The autonomous driving test was operated by TuSimple's ADS without a human on-board, without remote human control of the vehicle, and without traffic intervention.
To ensure public safety, TuSimple officials say they worked closely with government regulators and law enforcement and implemented a TuSimple survey vehicle to look for anomalies operating over five miles ahead, an oversight vehicle capable of putting the autonomous truck in a minimal risk condition trailing behind, and law enforcement vehicles following at a distance of 0.5 miles as an extra layer of safety precaution.
TuSimple's pilot program is the culmination of 1.5 years of work to develop an Level 4 autonomous semi-truck with the level of redundancy, reliability, and consistency to safely take the driver out on public roads. This is a critical first step in scaling autonomous trucking operations on the TuSimple Autonomous Freight Network, company officials said in a press release.