Autonomous driving technology firm TuSimple has successfully accomplished the world’s first completely driverless semi-truck run on open public roads, the company announced Dec. 29.
The journey took place on Dec. 22, with a truck operated by TuSimple’s autonomous driving system beginning its run from a large railyard in Tucson, Arizona. It traveled more than 80 miles on surface roads and highways at night to safely arrive at a high-volume distribution center in the Phoenix metro area.
“This year, we were laser-focused on putting our technology through a rigorous test on open public roads under real-world conditions, and to see all our hard work and dedication come together is extremely rewarding,” Cheng Lu, president, and CEO of TuSimple, said in a statement.
The 80-minute drive was the first time a class 8 truck, the heaviest class, has operated fully autonomously on open public roads without a human in the vehicle and without human intervention. Along the way, the vehicle successfully navigated traffic signals, on-ramps, off-ramps, emergency lane vehicles and highway lane changes in open traffic while naturally interacting with other motorists.
“By achieving this momentous technical milestone, we demonstrated the advanced capabilities of TuSimple’s autonomous driving system and the commercial maturity of our testing process, prioritizing safety and collaboration every step of the way,” Lu said in a statement. “This test reinforces what we believe is our unique position at the forefront of autonomous trucking, delivering advanced driving technology at commercial scale.”
This latest trip was part of an ongoing test program that will continue into 2022. To ensure public safety, TuSimple worked closely with the Arizona Department of Transportation and law enforcement. The San Diego-based company also employed a survey vehicle to look for anomalies that operated more than five miles ahead of the truck, an oversight vehicle capable of putting the autonomous truck in a minimal risk condition trailing behind the truck, and law enforcement vehicles following at a distance of roughly a half-mile as an extra layer of safety precaution.
This latest breakthrough joins a number of advances TuSimple has made in the past year. For example, in April, it became the first autonomous driving company to list on a stock exchange, and in July, it partnered with Ryder on terminals for driverless trucks.
A complete uncut video of the entire fully autonomous drive can be found here.