TuSimple's self-driving truck network takes shape with Ryder partnership ' TechCrunch

As part of its plan for building a freight network to support autonomous trucking, TuSimple (the self-driving truck startup that went public earlier in the year) has partnered up with Ryder.This week's deal sees Ryders fleet maintenance facilities become terminals for TuSimples' freight network. The autonomous freight network (or TuSimples AFN) is a collection shipping routes and terminals that are designed for autonomous trucking operations. It will be available across the United States by 2024. UPS, Penske Truck Leasing, U.S. Xpress and Berkshire Hathaways grocery chain and food service supply chain company McLane Inc. took a minority share in TuSimple.Four pieces make up TuSimples AFN. These include its self-driving trucks and digital mapped routes. Freight terminals are also included. Customers can monitor and track autonomous trucking operations as well as their shipments via a system called "TuSimples Track and Trace".Ryders facilities will be used primarily as strategic terminals, where TuSimple trucks may receive maintenance and sensors calibrated in the self-driving vehicle system. The terminals could be used in some cases as a transfer hub by smaller operators who might need to pick up cargo. According to Cheng Lu, CEO of TuSimple, this terminal is not intended to be a hub-to–hub system for customers to come and pick up freight.Lu stated that these trucks must be serviceable and maintained and that they should have greater uptime. This is something every carrier cares about, regardless of its autonomy.These terminals can be used by small shippers or carriers to pick up and drop-off freight. Lu said that TuSimple will usually take freight to customers' distribution centers, even for large-scale companies like UPS. Lu explained that Ryder facilities are nodes or stops on the network, allowing TuSimple reach more customers in a wider geographic area.The partnership will be implemented gradually. TuSimple currently has 50 autonomous trucks that transport freight to customers in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. There is also a human safety driver behind the wheel. Initially, the partnership will use Ryders facilities within these areas. The company's 500 maintenance facilities in America will eventually be expanded.TuSimple stated that it plans to expand its operations to the East Coast and transport freight between Phoenix, Orlando, and other cities later in the year. TuSimple currently has 25 trucks in order and will add them to its fleet when they are available.