CN Invests in Autonomous Trucking Firm

Canadian National and Union Pacific have invested in a startup firm that is developing self-driving trucks.

The two railroads were among the investors of $350 million round of funding for TuSimple, which currently operates autonomous trucks on routes in the Southwest.

Those trucks have a “safety driver” who can take control of the truck if needed. A company engineer also rides in the cab to monitor the operation.

Among TuSimple’s clients is parcel carrier UPS.

Railroads see autonomous trucks as a way to reduce terminal costs in an effort to be more competitive in the competition for short-haul traffic.

Intermodal analyst Larry Gross told Trains magazine that CN and UP might be seeking to use autonomous operation hostler rigs within their intermodal terminals.

He doesn’t think railroads would use autonomous trucks to dray trailers and containers from one terminal to another because that involves driving on city streets rather than cruising down interstate highways for long stretches.

Because they own their terminals, railroads would have more freedom to experiment with autonomous trucks on that property.

Gross noted, though, that draying would be a viable operation in which to use electric-power trucks because of the short distances involved.

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