Self-driving trucks are coming to an interstate near you.
Autonomous trucking startup TuSimple and truck maker Navistar recently announced they will build self-driving semi trucks, powered by the NVIDIA DRIVE AGX platform. The collaboration is one of the first to develop autonomous trucks, set to begin production in 2024.
Over the past decade, self-driving truck developers have relied on traditional trucks retrofitted with the sensors, hardware and software necessary for autonomous driving. Building these trucks from the ground up, however, allows for companies to custom-build them for the needs of a self-driving system as well as take advantage of the infrastructure of a mass production truck manufacturer.
This transition is the first step from research to widespread deployment, said Chuck Price, chief product officer at TuSimple.
“Our technology, developed in partnership with NVIDIA, is ready to go to production with Navistar,” Price said. “This is a significant turning point for the industry.”
Developing a truck to drive on its own takes more than a software upgrade.
Autonomous driving relies on redundant and diverse deep neural networks, all running simultaneously to handle perception, planning and actuation. This requires massive amounts of compute.
The NVIDIA DRIVE AGX platform delivers high-performance, energy-efficient compute to enable AI-powered and autonomous driving capabilities. TuSimple, a member of the NVIDIA Inception program for AI startups, has been using the platform in its test vehicles and pilots, such as its partnership with the United States Postal Service.
Building dedicated autonomous trucks makes it possible for TuSimple and Navistar to develop a centralized architecture optimized for the power and performance of the NVIDIA DRIVE AGX platform. The platform is also automotive grade, meaning it is built to withstand the wear and tear of years driving on interstate highways.
In addition to a customized architecture, developing an autonomous truck in partnership with a manufacturer opens up valuable infrastructure.
Truck makers like Navistar provide nationwide support for their fleets, with local service centers and vehicle tracking. This network is crucial for deploying self-driving trucks that will criss-cross the country on long-haul routes, providing seamless and convenient service to maintain efficiency.
TuSimple is also building out an HD map network of the nation’s highways for the routes its vehicles will travel. Combined with the widespread fleet management network, this infrastructure makes its autonomous trucks appealing to a wide variety of partners — UPS, U.S. Xpress, Penske Truck Leasing and food service supply chain company McLane Inc., a Berkshire Hathaway company, have all signed on to this autonomous freight network.
And backed by the performance of NVIDIA DRIVE AGX, these vehicles will continue to improve, delivering safer, more efficient logistics across the country.
“We’re really excited as we move into production to have a partner like NVIDIA with us the whole way,” Price said.