For Robot Trucks, Navigating Highways Is Just One Bump in the Road

In the past four months, four prominent self-driving trucking companies collectively valued at about $26 billion, including TuSimple and Plus, have rushed to tap public markets, leveraging the robust market for initial public offerings and the popularity of a vehicle known as a special-purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, in bids to raise large sums of money.

Investors have poured roughly $5.7 billion into TuSimple, Plus, Embark Trucks Inc. and Aurora Innovation Inc. in the past year, according to an analysis by The Wall Street Journal. The shift to public markets adds greater scrutiny to these companies, and urgency to demonstrate that they can map a path into commercial markets.

There is a lot still to do: test-drive billions of miles, lobby regulators to permit trucks to run without drivers, and convince a skeptical freight-hauling industry to put autonomous technology to work in daily operations.