Self-driving truck founder: Human truckers hours a tarnish on glory of humanity – Business Insider

  • The founder of self-driving truck firm TuSimple, Xiaodi Hou, says that truck drivers being required to work long hours on the road is a “tarnish on the glory of humanity.”
  • Hou was responding to a question about human truckers who fear that automated trucking might lose them their jobs.
  • TuSimple, which is valued at over $1 billion, develops tech to automate long-haul truck journeys without human intervention needed, though its vehicles still have a human as a failsafe. The company straddles both China and the US.
  • Speaking to Business Insider, Hou also explained why traditional trucking associations are actively working with, and not against, his firm.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The founder of self-driving truck unicorn TuSimple says that human truck drivers being required to work long hours on the road is a “tarnish on the glory of humanity.”

Xiaodi Hou is the founder, president and chief technology officer of TuSimple, which develops tech for automating long-haul truck journeys without human intervention needed. The self-driving trucks still have a human truck driver and an engineer present at all times, as a failsafe.

The company is based in San Diego, California, and splits its operations with China. The firm’s US presence comprises offices in San Diego, California and Tucson, Arizona, from which it oversees its long-haul US operations.

It also boasts offices in Beijing, Shanghai, and Fukuoka, Japan. Hou said he will expand its presence further in the next two to three years – a goal he said stemmed from “the confidence of our general stability.”

Founded in 2015, TuSimple has enjoyed huge investor interest. It was valued at just over $1 billion after a $95 million Series D fundraise in February. It went on to add a further $120 million, bringing the round to $215 million. Its backers include global delivery giant UPS, US chipmaker Nvidia, and Chinese tech firm Sina, owner of Weibo.

Though TuSimple currently retrofits existing trucks for pre-existing truck companies, it aims to have a factory-produced self-driving truck on the road by 2023.

TuSimple doesn’t think it will completely replace drivers with self-driving trucks

Speaking to Business Insider, Hou was asked how he’d respond to truckers who (rightly or wrongly) fear that their jobs are at risk.

“This is my first time responding to this question in English, but here goes,” he said. “To drive a truck for 11 hours per day, without even taking a shower every day, and getting far away from their home, is really a tarnish on the glory of humanity.

“You don’t hire chimney sweeps nowadays, and people don’t harvest the way they did 500 years ago.”

Asked what he’d say to those truckers who value the work, Hou said his company complements – and doesn’t compete with – the traditional trucking industry.

“The transition is actually slower than you thought,” he explained. “The transition is not like, ‘tomorrow, all of sudden, trucks will be autonomously driven.’ It’s not like that. Autonomous driving is more likely to involve the retrofitting of existing trucks rather than the building of new trucks.

tusimple

A self-driving truck retrofitted with TuSimple’s tech.
Courtesy of TuSimple


“It’ll be a very gradual thing, and truck drivers still need to [drive] trucks. Think about the gap we have [in terms of] truck driver shortage. The average truck driver age is 51. I don’t think even [on] a very optimistic view, we can fill up that gap within the time frame it needs to be filled.”

According to a July 2019 report by the American Trucking Associations, the US trucking industry was 60,000 drivers short of the number required to meet industry needs in 2018, up nearly 20% from 2017’s shortage of 50,700.

“Secondly, we don’t actually think self-driving trucks are going to deprive any truck drivers [of their jobs],” Hou continued. “I don’t think we’re going to be enemies of the truck drivers. We’re actually very good friends with the American Trucking Associations.

“We’re helping the associations to solve problems that they can’t solve alone, by themselves.”

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