TuSimple has pulled in $95 million more in venture funding to advance its development of a commercial autonomous fleet of trucks.
The new Series D round of financing announced Wednesday boosts the San Diego-based company’s valuation to land it on the growing list of “unicorns”—the tech-world term coined for companies valued at $1 billion or above.
TuSimple, founded in 2015 in San Diego and Beijing, raised its Series C round of $55 million in late 2017. Composite Capital, a Hong Kong-based investment fund started in 2016, led that round.
That was the year TuSimple became the first company in San Diego to test self-driving vehicles.
This latest round, which brings the total money the company has received from investors to $195 million, was led by Sina (NASDAQ: SINA), the tech company behind China’s Twitter-like service Weibo. The round closed in December, TuSimple says in a press release.
TuSimple says it will use the money to fund its “commercial ramp-up and product development,” which is already underway. In Arizona, its fully autonomous semi-trucks currently make three-to-five daily deliveries for 12 customers, large shippers and fleets. It plans to start deliveries in Texas next and have more than 50 trucks on the road by June. (It didn’t say how many are currently operating in the release.) Those deliveries bring in revenue for TuSimple while validating its Level 4 system—vehicles that can navigate without human intervention under most conditions—the company says.
Behind its trucks is a sophisticated camera system that gives the vehicles 1,000 meters, or more than half a mile, of visibility, the company says.
“This level of performance is essential for autonomous commercial trucks to operate safely at highway speeds—rain or shine,” TuSimple says.
The new money will also go toward collaborations with suppliers, which are working with TuSimple to integrate its autonomous software with powertrain, braking and steering systems, the company says.
Sina believes TuSimple will be the first to bring commercial self-driving trucks to market, according to remarks by Colin Xie, vice general manager of the company’s investment department.
Xiaodi Hou, founder, president, and chief technology officer at TuSimple, calls the financing not only a sign of confidence in the company, but also in the future of autonomous trucking.
“Autonomous driving is one of the most complex AI systems humans have ever built,” he says. “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.”