TuSimple Holdings Inc.
plans to test its autonomous trucks without backup drivers on public roads in Arizona later this year, executives of the newly public company said.
TuSimple, which has offices in the U.S. and China, on Thursday raised $1.08 billion through an initial public offering that sold some 33.8 million shares. The company priced shares at $40 apiece, above its indicated price range, giving it a capitalization of about $8.49 billion.
After opening at $40.25, the stock stumbled, slipping about 20%. But it regained much of its loss to close at $40.
“I guess it was a rough awakening to life as a public company for a few hours, but we are optimistic,” Chief Financial Officer
said the company is planning to conduct a “driver-out” pilot program without anyone at the wheel in the fourth quarter on a roughly 100-mile run between Tucson and Phoenix.
The company has a fleet of 50 trucks it is testing in the U.S. Southwest and approximately 20 more in China, running with two people in the cab. Its backers include commercial truck maker
Navistar International Corp.
, along with big U.S. truckload carriers including Omaha, Neb.-based
Werner Enterprises Inc.
and Green Bay, Wis.-based
Schneider National Inc.
Mr. Lu said the driverless pilot program would move customer freight, and that the company was working closely with Arizona transportation officials to coordinate the operation. He declined to say whether the driverless pilot would involve a single truck or multiple vehicles.
“We are going to demonstrate the ability … to take the driver out on limited routes,” he said. “We’re being very careful, and very tactical about this.”
TuSimple is the first autonomous driving company to list on a U.S. exchange, and has come under scrutiny for its strong ties to China, including a large operation and investor base there.
Mr. Lu said TuSimple and Chinese online media conglomerate Sina Corp. would comply with a probe by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., or Cfius, into a 2017 investment by a Sina affiliate. He said the companies were still preparing a joint response to the inquiry Cfius made on March 1.
Sun Dream Inc., the Cayman Islands-registered affiliate of Sina, was TuSimple’s largest private shareholder and is controlled by the Sina chairman and chief executive. According to a regulatory filing, Sun Dream planned to sell about 20% of its holdings in the IPO, but still keep two board seats.
“I can’t speculate whether it’s because of Cfius or other reasons,” Mr. Lu said of Sun Dream reducing its stake. But because of strong investor demand for the IPO, “we did suggest that maybe some of our older shareholders can sell.”
TuSimple has previously acknowledged the challenge of reassuring public market investors, who prefer predictability, even as it is still building new technology and projects its first commercial revenue in 2024. Mr. Dillon said the company has about $500 million on its balance sheet and that there were no imminent plans for additional fundraising to get to commercial launch in 2024.
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