Navistar International Corp. has taken a minority stake in TuSimple, a self-driving technology business, and established a development partnership with the company, which they say will produce SAE Level 4 self-driving trucks by 2024.
The value and percentage of Navistar's stake in TuSimple was not revealed.
The partners' announcement noted their plan results from a technical relationship they have had for over two years.
The Society of Automotive Engineers sorts autonomous vehicles into six classes according to self-driving capabilities. While Level 3 vehicles are capable of “environmental detection” and can make informed decisions (e.g., accelerating past a slower vehicle) autonomously, they still require an alert human to take control if the system cannot execute a task.
Level 4 vehicles operate steadily in self-driving mode, and the system can adapt to changing circumstances or a system failure. To date, Level 4 vehicles can operate only within a limited area (e.g., where top speeds are regulated.)
TuSimple's autonomous vehicle technology platform uses Lidar, radar, and HD cameras to provide 360-degree vehicle "awareness" in any driving condition. It also operates a fleet of 40 self-driving trucks shipping freight autonomously between Arizona and Texas, including for UPS and McLane Company. It has a proprietary, autonomous operations monitoring system to track the condition and location of every truck, and it plans to demonstrate completely driverless operations in 2021.
Last December, TuSimple presented results of a study showing that its autonomous driving technology reduced fuel consumption in heavy-duty trucks by 10%, compared to traditional operations.
Navistar's contribution to the project will be its manufacturing capability with heavy-duty (Class 8) highway trucks. The two began developing pre-production units in 2018, and now are proceeding with a "full go-to-market production program," according to TuSimple president Cheng Lu.
"Autonomous technology is entering our industry and will have a profound impact on our customers' businesses," stated Navistar's new president and CEO Persio Lisboa. "Navistar's strategic partnership with TuSimple positions us to be a leader in developing solutions for our customers by leveraging our organizations' collective expertise to integrate our vehicle design and systems integration capabilities with TuSimple's innovative autonomous technology."