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TuSimple's self-driving truck network expanding eastward via Texas

June 16 (Reuters) - Self-driving truck technology company TuSimple Holdings Inc said on Wednesday it will open a new Texas facility that will enable it to put trucks to work hauling freight on the roads of the southeastern U.S. states within six months.

The company, which outfits its trucks with self-driving technology, is opening a new terminal in Alliance, Texas, to serve the “Texas Triangle”, an area that includes Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, and Austin, adding 3,000 miles to its network. Lee White, TuSimple vice president for strategy, told Reuters the company is also talking to new customers as part of that expansion.

The company’s network began in Arizona and is currently testing its system by hauling freight. It plans a to roll out a national U.S. autonomous freight network by 2024.

White said the facility in Alliance, a major logistics hub in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, will enable TuSimple to extend its reach across the Gulf Coast states to Florida, up to Georgia and the Carolinas, plus Tennessee.

“This really does open up expansion onto the East Coast for us,” White said.

TuSimple is expected to demonstrate its self-driving truck technology using semi-trucks without human drivers in the fourth quarter of this year in Arizona.

The company is developing self-driving big rigs with Navistar International Corp, which is being bought out by Volkswagen AG’s truck unit Traton SE, and is also working with chip company Nvidia Corp.

Those trucks are due to go into production in 2024 and will be delivered to customers such as UPS.

Navistar, Traton and UPs hold minority stakes in TuSimple.

Self-driving technology for freight trucks has attracted investor attention. Trucks should be easier and cheaper to roll out than self-driving cars and robotaxis, and should provide a clearer path to revenue and profitability.

Autonomous freight services run on fixed routes between predefined points - mostly on major highways without intersections or pedestrians - requiring less mapping than shuttling customers between random points in robotaxis.

FedEx Corp and robotics company Nuro this week announced plans to test self-driving vehicles in the package delivery company’s network, starting with a pilot program in Houston. (Reporting By Nick Carey; Editing by David Gregorio)

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