TUSimple trials autonomous truck transportation of fresh produce

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Autonomous trucking developer TuSimple has announced a logistics project in the fresh produce industry. In partnership with the Giumarra Companies, an international network of fresh produce growers, distributors and marketers, and the Associated Wholesale Grocers (AWG), the USA’s largest cooperative food wholesaler, the company says it has completed an industry-first test pilot.

TuSimple trucks picked up a load of fresh watermelons from Giumarra’s facility in Nogales, Arizona, and transported the produce across four states to AWG’s distribution center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, where the fruit was inspected and distributed to Doc’s Country Mart and Homeland grocery stores across the state.

The pick-up and delivery of the produce, commonly referred to as first mile and last mile, was done manually with a human driver, while the longest portion of the journey from Tucson, Arizona, to Dallas, Texas, the ‘middle mile’, was done autonomously using TuSimple’s self-driving technology. The autonomous portion of the journey covered more than 900 miles. A human driver can complete the entire trip in 24 hours and six minutes, while TuSimple demonstrated its autonomous system can make this trip in 14 hours 6 minutes – 42% faster.

“Autonomous trucking technology is a real game-changer for us,” said Tim Riley, president of the Giumarra Companies, “as its time and cost efficiencies provide us with an enhanced opportunity to supply fresher fruits and vegetables across the United States, particularly to food deserts and rural communities.”

While package delivery, large freight carriers and commercial railroads are already leveraging TuSimple’s autonomous trucking solutions, the company feels one of the most promising applications is within the food industry.

“We believe the food industry is one of many that will greatly benefit from the use of TuSimple’s autonomous trucking technology,” said Jim Mullen, chief administrative officer at TuSimple. “Given the fact that autonomous trucks can operate nearly continuously without taking a break means fresh produce can be moved from origin to destination faster, resulting in fresher food and less waste.”

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Lawrence has been covering engineering subjects – with a focus on motorsport technology – since 2007 and has edited and contributed to a variety of international titles. Currently, he oversees Automotive Powertrain Technology and Professional Motorsport World magazines as editor.

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