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Robot Truckmaker TuSimple Files For Nasdaq IPO

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TuSimple, a U.S.-Chinese developer of self-driving technology for commercial trucks, filed a registration to list shares in an initial public offering on Nasdaq. It’s among the first autonomous tech startups to do so–and breaking from a recent trend isn’t taking the SPAC route to its IPO.  

The number of shares to be offered and the price range for the potential offering hasn’t determined yet, the company said in a statement. Morgan Stanley, Citigroup and J.P. Morgan are the main managers offering and when the listing is complete shares will trade with the ticker “TSP.”

The company, with U.S. headquarters in San Diego, has raised about $800 million to date and operates the largest fleet of automated semi-trucks in the U.S. The company estimates its trucks have racked up more than 2.8 million test miles and it has a goal of phasing in tests of trucks with no human safety driver at the wheel by the end of 2021. It recently announced plans to develop fully automated trucks with Volkswagen’s Traton Group and Navistar and currently has about 5,700 reservations for such vehicles that are to go into production by 2024. 

TuSimple, begun in 2015 by computer scientist Xiaodi Hou when he was finishing his Ph.D. at Caltech, has been a fast mover in the race to get driverless semis on the road in competition with companies including Waymo, the longtime leader in self-driving cars, and startups Aurora, Embark Trucks and Kodiak. They are all targeting a U.S. commercial trucking market valued at $800 billion.

(For more see, Robo-Rigs: The Scientist, The Unicorn and The $700 Billion Race To Create Self-Driving Semi-Trucks)

“In AV trucking they are, if not the leader, certainly one of the leaders in that group. It’s a fairly small group–and getting small,” says Sam Abuelsamid, principal research analyst for Guidehouse Insights and a Forbes senior contributor. “They’re generating some revenue from trucking partnerships but it’s fairly trivial at this point. They won’t be a meaningful business for several more years, not until the 2024-25 timeframe.”

In its SEC filing TuSimple reported revenue of $1.8 million in 2020 and a loss of $177.9 million. Cash and equivalents totaled $310.8 million at the end of last year. Along with Traton and its Navistar subsidiary TuSimple also counts UPS, McLane, Nvidia, U.S. Xpress, Werner, Schneider and CN as partners and investors.

Much of TuSimple’s trucking operations are in the U.S. Southwest, with a main engineering depot in Tucson, Arizona, and recently opened facility in Dallas. The company’s goal is to eventually operate autonomously coast-to-coast.

“Our HD digital mapped routes currently span over 3,000 miles across the U.S., and we expect to map the entire 46,000 mile U.S. Interstate System by 2024,” company said in the filing. “We are scaling our (Autonomous Freight Network) through an ecosystem approach by partnering with world class shippers, carriers, railroads, and service providers to de-risk and accelerate the pace of expansion. We believe that our AFN will offer users a comprehensive network to access autonomous long haul freight capacity.” 

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