REUTERS: Self-driving truck technology company TuSimple Holdings Inc said on Thursday its trucks will use truck leasing and rental company Ryder System Inc's maintenance sites as terminals to help it expand its U.S. autonomous freight network.
Under the partnership, Ryder will provide maintenance and data downloading services for TuSimple's fleet of more than 50 self-driving trucks, which are currently operating in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
TuSimple plans to roll out a national U.S. autonomous freight network by 2024.
Its president Cheng Lu said access to Ryder's U.S. network of more than 500 maintenance facilities will enable the truck company to rapidly scale up its freight system without having to invest heavily in its own new terminals.
"Because there are so many Ryder terminals, that brings you physically closer to customers," he said, adding that the two companies are still finalizing the financial terms of their partnership.
"We are building an autonomous ecosystem and we need partners like Ryder to build out our network."
Self-driving technology for freight trucks has attracted investor attention as, with trucks usually running on fixed routes between predefined points, it is seen as easier and cheaper to roll out than systems for self-driving cars and robotaxis.
Last month, TuSimple announced a new Texas terminal that will allow it to expand into the southeastern U.S. states.
TuSimple is expected to demonstrate its self-driving truck technology using semi-trucks without human drivers in the fourth quarter of this year in Arizona.
The company is developing self-driving big rigs with Navistar International Corp, which is owned by Volkswagen AG's truck unit Traton SE, and is also working with chip company Nvidia Corp.
Those trucks are due to go into production in 2024 and will be delivered to customers such as UPS.
(Reporting by Nick Carey; Editing by Jan Harvey)