TuSimple Completes Successful Series C Funding Round, Raises $55 Million

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【Summary】The timely funding round was led by Composite Capital, a Hong Kong-based venture capital firm that specializes in early-stage investments.

  Michael Cheng  ·  Dec 05, 2017 11:30 AM PT
author: Michael Cheng   

Autonomous trucking startup TuSimple is having a breakout year. The China-based company recently completed a Series C funding round, which raised $55 million.

TuSimple is looking to scale the research of autonomous trucking platforms, at a very critical stage of development.

Series C Funding Round

The timely funding round was led by Composite Capital, a Hong Kong-based venture capital firm that specializes in early-stage investments. Other participants in TuSimple's funding round include NVIDIA, SINA Capital and ZP Capital.

Interestingly, the establishment, which was founded by David Ma in 2016, has only made two investments in the automotive space. Last year, the business participated in a Series A funding round launched by Zoox, boosting its projected value to $1.5 billion (as of September 2017). Zoox specializes in ‘robo-taxi' systems for commercial fleets.

"Autonomous driving systems based on AI have immeasurable economic value and social value. It also saves costs for end-users by cutting fuel costs," said a spokesperson for Fuhe Capital.

"We recognize TuSimple's technical research and business model and hope to help them grow further in autonomous driving applications."

Making Autonomous Tech Safer

TuSimple plans to use the newly acquired funds to streamline the testing of two autonomous trucking fleets. The trials will be held in China and the US (Tucson, Arizona). Furthermore, the startup will supplement its research efforts in development centers based in San Diego and Beijing.

"Human error and driver fatigue account for a large portion of truck accidents. TuSimple is proud that our research and development efforts can help bring innovation to the trucking market and make the roads safer for everyone." said Mo Chen, CEO of TuSimple.

In Tucson, the business has been preparing to test its SAE-L4 driverless trucking platform, which was initially demoed during an automotive event in China.

TuSimple's autonomous system is designed to address several challenges associated with commercial trucking. Leveraging robust external sensors, its platform is capable of tracking structures located up to 200 meters away. Inside tunnels, the startup's self-driving trucks can maneuver safely, with ‘decimeter-level' accuracy.

To improve LIDAR detection, the company supplements the components with cameras and millimeter-wave radar. When used together, such solutions are highly cost effective and accurate for long-distance applications.

Images generated by cameras are utilized to decrease false-positive encounters by radar. On the other hand, radar components are applicable to detection in rough weather environments, which cameras have a difficult time operating in.

Regulatory Hurdles

In the US, it seems that TuSimple's challenges are mostly related to regulation. Expressed by both the American Trucking Associations and the American Transportation Research Institute, bills pertaining to autonomous vehicles are failing to include guidelines for commercial trucks.

Back in April 2017, FedEx raised similar issues, citing that regulations for the testing of autonomous trucking fleets should be implemented nationally.

At the moment, only a handful of US states cater to self-driving trials. This patchwork approach is not viable because some driverless trucking maneuvers, such as platooning, need to be tested over long distances, in cross-border environments and routes.

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