SAN DIEGO, Calif. — Self-driving tech developer TuSimple is working to revolutionize the transport of fresh produce, according to company statement released May 19. In partnership with the Giumarra Companies, a network of produce growers, and Associated Wholesale Grocers Inc. (AWG), a food wholesaler, TuSimple recently completed an industry-first test pilot in an effort to provide faster delivery, fresher food and less waste.
On May 3, TuSimple picked up a load of fresh watermelons from Giumarra’s facility in Nogales, Arizona, and transported the produce across four states to AWG’s distribution center in Oklahoma City, where the fruit was inspected and distributed to Doc’s Country Mart and Homeland grocery stores across the state.
The initial pickup and final delivery of the produce, commonly referred to as “first mile” and “last mile,” was done manually with a human driver, while the “middle mile,” the longest portion of the journey —from Tucson, Arizona, to Dallas — was done autonomously using TuSimple’s self-driving technology. The autonomous portion of the journey covered more than 900 miles. A human driver can complete the entire trip in 24 hours, six minutes, but TuSimple’s autonomous system made trip 42% faster, in just 14 hours, six minutes.
“Autonomous trucking technology is a real game-changer for us, as its time and cost efficiencies provide us with an enhanced opportunity to supply fresher fruits and vegetables across the United States, particularly to food deserts and rural communities,” said Tim Riley, president of the Giumarra Companies.
While package delivery, large freight carriers and commercial railroads can leverage TuSimple’s autonomous trucking, implementing the solution within the food industry can also produce beneficial results, according to TuSimple.
“We believe the food industry is one of many that will greatly benefit from the use of TuSimple’s autonomous trucking technology,” said Jim Mullen, chief administrative officer of TuSimple. “Given the fact that autonomous trucks can operate nearly continuously without taking a break means fresh produce can be moved from origin to destination faster, resulting in fresher food and less waste.”