Autonomous trucks may still be a far way away from becoming the norm, but the journey of a million miles begins with one wheel rotation. A small handful of companies are working together to help lay the groundwork of making it a reality.
The companies that form this partnership of establishing an autonomous network of trucks include:
- TuSimple, a tech company from San Diego California that forms the brains and programming of the operation.
- UPS, the nation’s largest trucking company, which will presumably provide the trucks for the operation.
- Penske Truck Leasing, one of the largest truck leasing companies, if not the largest. They will repair the trucks.h
- U.S. Xpress, the fifth largest trucking company in the nation. They will use their trucking experience to determine which truck lanes the project will expand into.
- McLane, a logistics company owned by Berkshire Hathaway, which is the conglomerate spearheaded by business legend Warren Buffet. Presumably, they will provide general financing for project expenses.
It is abundantly clear this project is backed by some heavy hitters in the industry.
Trucks are heavy machines that can cause plenty of damage when they collide. This is why the partnership is starting with trucking lanes in the Arizona-Texas desert, where the population is low and there is a dearth of buildings.
The partnership hopes that once it has some experience under its belt that it can establish a route from Los Angeles to Jacksonville and back sometime around 2022 or 2023.
Once the team proves it can handle longer distances, it hopes to establish trucking lanes throughout the lower 48 states sometime by 2024.
Will this partnership fulfill its goal of making Level 4 autonomous trucks commercially viable by 2024? With all of the obstacles it has to overcome, it seems highly unlikely. Most of the technology for autonomous highway travel already exists, but the less predictable nature of downtown and other urban areas is the biggest obstacle to making fully self-driving big rigs a reality.