Self-driving truck company TuSimple continues to add to its coffers.
The company announced Tuesday it has raised an additional $120 million, part of an extended funding round that includes an investment from the venture arm of global logistics giant UPS Inc.
New participants in the latest funding include CDH Investments, Lavender Hill Capital and auto supplier Mando Corp. The latest round was led by Sina, the Chinese tech company behind the Weibo social-media platform. Founded in 2015, TuSimple has raised $298 million to date.
Company officials say the new funds will allow them to continue developing their technology and expand routes –- on which trucks are hauling freight while testing with human safety drivers behind the wheel.
TuSimple has emerged as one of the early self-driving front-runners in the chase for a slice of a trucking industry worth more than $800 billion to the U.S. economy each year. At a time when the American Trucking Associations says the industry faces a shortage of more than 50,000 drivers, automated trucks could someday help alleviate that shortfall.
"There is no consumer-acceptance barrier to overcome, only a business-benefit barrier," says Mike Ramsey, senior research director at consulting firm Gartner. "Even so, I think that autonomy in trucking will be in highly specific regions and roadways, expanding slowly as the technology improves."
TuSimple has been building out its business plans. The company has been hauling packages daily for UPS between Phoenix and Tucson, Ariz. This year, it conducted a pilot project with the U.S. Postal Service, driving interstate routes between Dallas and Phoenix.
A spokeswoman for TuSimple says the company has 35 trucks, with plans to expand to 50 in the near term. "We're adding the new trucks to the fleet as fast as we can get them," the spokeswoman said.
Other investors include artificial-intelligence and computing company Nvidia, Composite Capital Management and ZP Capital.
"TuSimple continues to impress the automotive and investor community with its progress toward creating the world's first commercial self-driving truck solution," said Jae Chung, CFO of Mando, in a written statement. "TuSimple's technology is at a pivotal point for maturity and it has huge market potential."