Autonomous truck testing ramps up

Australia is not alone in its battle with driver shortages; with self-driving technology being considered as a possible solution in Japan, where the testing of autonomous trucks is ramping up along one of the country’s key freight routes.

Global autonomous driving technology company TuSimple Holdings announced last week that it had begun Level 4 autonomous test runs on the Tomei Expressway – a critical freight corridor that connects the major cities of Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka.

Back in 2021, TuSimple Japan – a subsidiary of TuSimple – completed a series of safety validation and testing work of its autonomous driving system with a local Japanese OEM’s truck.

By January 2023, TuSimple Japan had commenced regular testing on the Tomei Expressway.

As is the case in Australia, Japan is grappling with the issues of heavy vehicle driver shortages, together with an ageing driver workforce.

Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications reported in 2022 that 45.2 per cent of drivers in the country’s transport industry were aged 50 or older.

Reports have also surfaced that the Japanese government is planning to launch a self-driving lane on some sections of the New Tomei Expressway by 2024, which will allow commercial operation of SAE Level 4 fully autonomous trucks in 2026.

“Self-driving technology is a promising solution to the driver shortage issue that Japan’s logistics industry faces,” said Cheng Lu, president and CEO at TuSimple.

TuSimple is currently developing commercial-ready, fully autonomous (SAE Level 4) driving solutions for long-haul heavy-duty trucks, that use AI technology.

The company reports that as of March 2023, TuSimple trucks have recorded over 10 million cumulative miles through testing, research and freight delivery.

TuSimple also made headlines in December 2021 by executing the world’s first fully autonomous semi-truck run on public roads in Arizona, USA without any human intervention.

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