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TuSimple’s self-driving trucks up for auction following U.S. exit

Ten of TuSimple’s autonomous big rigs are set to be auctioned off later this month, just a few weeks after the self-driving trucking startup that went public in 2021 announced it was exiting the U.S. market.

The trucks, along with a slew of research and development equipment and office supplies, will be sold off in two online auctions. The first is slated to run January 23-25, and a second is scheduled for February 6-8. A spokesperson for the auction company confirmed 10 trucks will “initially” be sold. TuSimple, which had an office in San Diego and an operations facility in Tucson, Arizona, reported in November that it had 35 autonomous trucks in the United States. It’s unclear what will happen to the other 25.

TuSimple’s fall from high-flying startup status to being touted as an “Incredible Offer!!” in an online auction is a sign of just how treacherous the road has become for AV startups.

Embark Technologies sold itself (and also auctioned off some trucks) in 2023, just two years after going public in a transaction that valued the company at more than $5 billion. Argo AI shut down in late 2022 despite having big backers in Ford and Volkswagen. Cruise paused operations, slashed its workforce and pushed out a number of executives after one of its AVs was involved in a crash late last year.

Founded in 2015, TuSimple was one of the earlier players that tried to skip straight to developing fully driverless trucks for moving goods around the country. It even won a brief contract in 2019 to run mail for the U.S. Postal Service between its Phoenix and Dallas distribution centers.

Though it often positioned itself as an American startup, TuSimple’s founders and funding originated from China. The company went public in 2021 and was swiftly scrutinized by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States over its Chinese shareholders. It ultimately wound up under investigation by both the FBI and the Securities and Exchange Commission, and subsequently lost a crucial deal to co-develop self-driving big rigs with trucking giant Navistar in late 2022. Since then, the company’s share price has continued to fall from a high in July 2021 of $62.58 to just $0.73 today.

TuSimple spent much of 2023 changing its priorities, saying at one point that it would sell off its China business before reversing course and announcing it wanted to unload the U.S. operation. In December, the company said it would exit the U.S. altogether and laid off more than 150 workers as a result.

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