The co-founder of autonomous driving technology firm TuSimple is now launching a venture, Hydron, to manufacture pollution-free hydrogen-powered autonomous trucks, the new company announced June 10.
Southern California-based Hydron aims to develop, manufacture and sell trucks powered by hydrogen fuel cells that are equipped with Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Level 4 autonomy—that is, able to act without any human intervention in the vast majority of situations.
“The path to commercializing autonomous vehicles requires the complex integration of both hardware and software,” Mo Chen, chief executive officer at Hydron, said in a statement. “The biggest challenge in bringing autonomous driving to the market at scale is not software development, but access to reliable mass production hardware, and now with Hydron, we will be able to provide automotive-grade hardware specifically for autonomous networks.”
Chen, a Canadian entrepreneur, co-founded San Diego-based TuSimple with business partner Xiaodi Hou in 2015. TuSimple achieved a number of notable highlights in 2021, such as accomplishing the world’s first fully autonomous run of a class 8 truck, the heaviest class, on open public roads without a human in the vehicle and without remote intervention, and becoming the first autonomous driving company to list on a stock exchange when it went public through a traditional IPO, raising $1.3 billion in total funding. (Hydron is a privately held independent company and is not affiliated with TuSimple.)
Hydrogen, the most common element in the universe, has long been touted as a clean and abundant energy alternative to fossil fuels. When hydrogen reacts with oxygen in fuel cells to generate electricity, instead of yielding pollutants as fossil fuels do, the result is simply water.
Chen aims to transform long-haul freight transportation through hydrogen-powered autonomous trucks to make trucking safer, cleaner, and more efficient, minimizing the carbon footprint of class 8 heavy-duty trucks globally. The company also plans to collaborate with partners to build a manufacturing facility in North America to better meet U.S. supply chain challenges.
Hydron aims for its first generation of trucks to enter mass production in the third quarter of 2024, each possessing a complete set of sensors, computing units and redundant actuators to meet level 4 autonomous driving requirements. It will focus on North American, European and Middle Eastern markets.