- Traton Group and TuSimple have agreed to a global partnership to develop self-driving Class 8 trucks, the firms said Wednesday morning in a joint news release. Traton said it is the first European partnership between an OEM and a level 4 self-driving company. Traton also said it has taken a minority stake in TuSimple.
- Traton and TuSimple will operate a L4 autonomous hub-to-hub route between two cities in Sweden, using the Scania brand, the companies said.
- Traton and TumSimple said the plan is to expand L4 fleets in Sweden, Germany and elsewhere. Testing will begin in Sweden but expand to Germany and other European nations, Traton said.
Beyond efficiencies, autonomous trucks could help alleviate the European driver shortage, particularly in Germany, where Traton said the industry will be down about 60,000 drivers in the near future.
In a L4 vehicle, the driving system can perform all driving tasks and monitor the driving environment, and a human occupant doesn't need to pay attention in most circumstances, according to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
In the United States, the driver shortage numbers are more intimidating. In July 2019, the American Trucking Associations found that 2018 ended with the industry needing another 61,000 drivers. And each year until 2029, the industry will need to add 110,000 new drivers, the ATA's report found.
Autonomous technology is still being tested in Europe, Asia and the United States. And TuSimple is capitalizing on that, attracting Volkswagen's Traton and Navistar. In July, Navistar entered into a partnership to develop L4 autonomous trucks with TuSimple, with U.S. production start eyed for 2024. Navistar also took a minority stake in TuSimple. TuSimple and Navistar have had a technical relationship since 2018.
In the United States, TuSimple operates 40 autonomous trucks, in Arizona and Texas, with plans for California in 2022. But those trucks have a human riding along. In 2021, TuSimple plans to showcase completely driverless automated trucks.
But other OEMs are hot on the autonomous trail. Hyundai is already marketing autonomous products in the United States and Europe. Hyundai showed off its DC-6 Neptune Class 8 truck, which is powered by fuel cells, at the North American Commercial Vehicle Show in October.