US-Chinese autonomous truck startup TuSimple becomes a unicorn

TuSimple, a US-Chinese tech startup that makes autonomous trucks, raised $95 million in a funding round that the company estimates moves it to unicorn status.

Founded in 2015 in San Diego and Beijing, TuSimple is an artificial intelligence company on the cutting edge of the autonomous trucking industry.

This series D closed at the end of 2018, led by Chinese tech firm Sina Corp. and included investment from Hong Kong-based Composite Capital, boosting TuSimple’s total funding to date to about $180 million and post money valuation to more than $1billion.

 

The current round will help the company expand its fleet of robot semi-trucks to 50 by June from 12 currently, as well as its team of developers, the company told Forbes.

The technology designed by Caltech-trained neuroscientist Xiaodi Hou, who’s also TuSimple’s founder, president and CTO.

It raised $8 million in Series A round in Sep 2015 and another $20 million in Series B from Sina, NVIDIA, and ZP Capital in Aug 2017.

Based in San Diego and with an engineering facility and truck depot in Tucson, Arizona, TuSimple has been hauling revenue-generating loads since last year. And while self-driving passenger vehicle programs, such as the service Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo launched in Phoenix in December 2018, have drawn the most public attention, use of the technology for autonomous trucking and delivery could be on a faster path to commercialization.

“Autonomous driving is one of the most complex AI systems humans have ever built,” Hou said in a statement. “After three years of intense focus to reach our technical goals, we have moved beyond research into the serious work of building a commercial solution.”

Soon after rasing Series B, it opened a testing facility in Tucson Arizona, and began testing TuSimple’s Peterbilt between Tucson and Phoenix, Arizona.

In Nov 2017 it raised an additional $55 million in Series C from Composite Capital and with participation from existing investors Sina and ZP Capital.

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