TuSimple is a global company with about 1400 employees spread across the US (mainly Arizona and Texas) and China, aims to produce a self-driving truck that would revolutionize the shipping system by making truck drivers redundant, thus cutting costs because truck drivers won’t be needed and the vehicles don’t need to sleep, so they can go farther for longer. Describing that system and what the company has so far been able to produce, TuSimple’s website says:
On December 22, 2021, TuSimple made history by becoming the world’s first to operate a fully autonomous semi-truck run on open public roads without a human on board while naturally interacting with other motorists. The TuSimple Driver Out program required our upfitted self-driving truck to travel on surface streets and highways, to safely navigate traffic signals, emergency lane vehicles, on- and off-ramps, and highway lane changes in open traffic.
Driver Out represents an exciting step in the evolution of self-driving trucking. It also provided crucial validation of the safety of our L4 self-driving truck technology.
But this Christmas it’s not those truck drivers TuSimple aims to replace that are getting laid off. Rather, that’s happening to TuSimple employees, half of whom are going to be fired during the week before Christmas according to a recent report in the Wall Street Journal.
According to the report, TuSimple will fire about half of its workforce as it aims to cut costs to survive leaner times and keep its development efforts going. Reporting on what operations will be cut, the WSJ reported that “As part of the downsizing, much of TuSimple’s operation in Tucson, Ariz., where it does a lot of its test driving, will be eliminated, and the team that works on the algorithms for the self-driving software will be pared back significantly“.
Further, emphasizing why it is that TuSimple is needing to cut costs and put a lid on some things, the WSJ reported that “TuSimple is cutting costs and scaling back its ambitions as it reels from a string of crises this year, including a crash of one of its self-driving trucks in April, the loss of key business partnerships, two CEO changes, a plummeting stock price and concurrent government investigations“.
Fox News Digital, reporting on what “government investigations” are causing trouble for the company, which is also hemorrhaging money, said:
In October, TuSimple fired its chief executive and co-founder, Xiaodi Hou, after an internal board investigation found that Hou had shared confidential information with Hydron, a Chinese trucking startup that operates mostly in China and is funded by Chinese investors. Following his ouster, Hou recruited TuSimple co-founder and Hydron founder Mo Chen to strike back at the board, firing them. Together they brought back Lu to run the company, the Journal reported.
We’ll see if TuSimple and like companies survive the coming recession, or if the tried and true trucking system just keeps trucking as these tech startups crash and burn.
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