Self-driving truck developer TuSimple is facing a federal investigation into an April crash of one of its trucks during a run from its main development center and terminal on the southeast side of Tucson.
The company said it reported the incident to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and arranged for officials from NHTSA and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to visit and review the incident.
According to the company, the accident happened on April 6 in the Tucson area, where the company has been testing self-driving truck technology with human drivers on board along Interstate 10 since 2015.
The company said “human error occurred” when two operators of a TuSimple vehicle incorrectly re-enabled self-driving mode without performing all of the steps necessary to safely engage, resulting in caused the truck to scrape a median.
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No one was injured, there was no property damage and the only visible sign of the incident was a minor scratch on the truck, San Diego-based TuSimple said in an online post.
An apparent video of the April crash posted by a trucking blog showed the TuSimple narrowly missed hitting a smaller truck.
The company said it immediately grounded its entire self-driving fleet and launched an independent review to determine the cause of the incident.
As a result, TuSimple has upgraded all of its systems with new automated system checks “to prevent this type of human error from happening again,” the company said, noting that it had reported the incident to NHTSA. and the Arizona Department of Transportation.
“We are proud of our work at TuSimple and remain fully confident in our progress to deliver advanced autonomous trucking at commercial scale to build a safer, more efficient and sustainable future on the road,” the company said.
TuSimple did not respond to requests for additional comment.
The April incident is the only accident TuSimple has reported to NHTSA since July 2021, when the agency began requiring manufacturers and developers of self-driving systems to report such accidents.
In total, between July 2021 and May 15, NHTSA received 130 accident reports of vehicles equipped with “automated driving systems” – those capable of conditional autonomous operation, known as level 3 automation. , high automation (Level 4) or fully autonomous, Level 5 operation according to standards developed by SAE International (formerly the Society of Automotive Engineers).
A dozen of those crashes happened in Arizona, according to the NHTSA report.
Waymo, a Google sister company that is testing a self-driving taxi service in the Phoenix area, had by far the most reported crashes among automated driving system operators during the reporting period, with 62 nationwide. .
During this reporting period, NHTSA also received 367 reports of accidents involving vehicles equipped with so-called SAE Level 2 automation – speed and direction control with a human driver, now commonly used in new passenger vehicles – including 273 involving Tesla electric cars.
Fully autonomous vehicles are not yet legal in the United States, although states like Arizona have passed laws allowing limited testing of such systems.
In December, TuSimple said it successfully tested a fully driverless truck on Interstate 10 from Tucson to Phoenix.
The trial required the company to file a detailed plan with the Arizona Departments of Transportation and Public Safety and certify that the vehicle and system meet federal requirements, among other conditions.
TuSimple said while NHTSA reports more than 500,000 crashes involving large trucks each year, its April wreckage was the first incident it’s responsible for in seven years and 7.2 million miles of self-driving vehicle testing.
“While our safety record is far better than that of traditional hand-driving trucks, we take our responsibility to find and fix all safety issues very seriously,” the company said.
TuSimple is also facing an ongoing federal lawsuit filed by a former employee for wrongful termination, including allegations that the company circumvented critical security tests.
In a lawsuit filed last year in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, former TuSimple security engineer John Lindland alleges the company retaliated against him for refusing to sign unmet safety standards.
TuSimple has denied any wrongdoing and asked for summary judgment to dismiss the case, but after the case was transferred to another judge in April, it has yet to go to trial.
Wall Street reacts
Meanwhile, shares of TuSimple took a hit after the video was posted (tucne.ws/1l29) and related reports surfaced last week.
TuSimple did not verify the authenticity of the video and did not mention it in its published explanation of the crash.
Shares of TuSimple closed Monday at $8.99 per share, down 97 cents or about 9.7%, when trading on the Nasdaq stock market.
The company, which has a market capitalization of more than $2 billion, went public in April 2021 at $40 per share, but has seen its shares trade between $50.30 and $5.99 per share over the past few months. last 12 months.
After posting a net loss of nearly $733 million in 2021, TuSimple in May announced a net loss of about $112 million in the first quarter, compared to $389 million in the first quarter of 2021.