Robo-Rigs: The Scientist, The Unicorn And The $700 Billion Race To Create Self-Driving Semi-Trucks

TuSimple isn’t the only startup focused on driverless trucks. Embark Trucks, Ike, Starsky Robotics and Kodiak Robotics, all based in the San Francisco Bay Area, are racing to develop their own autonomous big rigs, but TuSimple is on the fast track. Hou, a 34-year-old computer scientist, has raised $178 million for the San Diego startup at a $1.1 billion valuation, making it the first self-driving trucking unicorn and giving it more than three times the war chest of Embark, its closest startup rival. The cash pile gives it an edge in expanding its fleet, key to inking more deals with clients such as Phoenix-based Royal Paper. With 15 Peterbilts and Navistars, it has more semis transporting goods for paid customers than any competitor, Forbes estimates, and Hou claims a technological rec­ord, too—TuSimple has a proprietary vision system that can see a kilometer ahead, farther than any other driverless tech company, including Waymo.