Autonomous Trucking Startup TuSimple Plans to Go Public in March

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Autonomous trucking company TuSimple Inc., which gained momentum with hundreds of millions of dollars in financing from Chinese investors and U.S. freight-hauling companies, has filed paperwork to go public and plans to join the U.S. stock market as early as next month, according to people familiar with the matter.

The company, which has offices in San Diego and China, has filed confidentially for an IPO and plans to make that filing public in early March and will list its shares for trading a few weeks later, the people said. That schedule is subject to change and market conditions could alter TuSimple’s plans.

Morgan Stanley

is the lead banker on the IPO, the people said. TuSimple said it raised $215 million in a 2019 financing round that valued it at $1.2 billion. It has since raised more capital but declined to share its latest valuation. Other financial details about the coming IPO weren’t immediately available.

A spokeswoman for TuSimple declined to comment on the company’s IPO plans.

The IPO filing confirms TuSimple’s intention to pursue a traditional public listing versus merging with a special-purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, which is also known as a blank-check company. Last year, TuSimple considered going public with a SPAC, people with knowledge of the discussions said.

A successful IPO could launch TuSimple to the front of the pack of self-driving trucking startups who are seeking to bring automation to long-haul trucking. The ventures have garnered attention from freight carriers and investors because of the potential that autonomous systems have to make long-haul trucking cheaper and more efficient, in part because self-driving vehicles wouldn’t be bound by federal limits on how long drivers can be behind the wheel.

Progress has been slow, with most startups and large companies in the space still running pilots with backup drivers behind the wheel. TuSimple has a fleet of 50 trucks that it is testing in the American Southwest and another 20 or so in China, running with two people in the cab. It has said its technology will be commercially ready in 2024.

The company in recent months hired a new chief financial officer,

Pat Dillon,

who came from Morgan Stanley. It is also seeking a global controller to, among other things, oversee filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Last month, it unveiled a new advisory board that includes former members of Congress to help accelerate widespread adoption of autonomous trucking technology.

The anticipated IPO comes amid a flurry of activity in autonomous trucking as startups seek funding and buyers to keep testing the nascent and costly technology. In December, self-driving startup Aurora Innovation Inc. bought

Uber Technologies Inc.’s

autonomous-driving group as it seeks to develop technology for trucks, and autonomous delivery company Nuro Inc. acquired self-driving trucking startup Ike. This month, PlusAI Inc., another China-backed self-driving trucking company operating in California, raised $200 million from private investors.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., or Cfius, previously identified TuSimple as a company that merited review because of its ties to China and because autonomous driving technology is considered a critical technology for the Department of Defense, according to people close to Cfius. Cfius hasn’t pursued enforcement actions against TuSimple to date, a person familiar with the matter said.

A spokeswoman for the Treasury Department, which leads Cfius, declined to comment.

TuSimple’s China backers include CDH Investments, one of the country’s largest alternative investment firms, and Sina Corp., an online media conglomerate. It also has funding from Germany-based

Volkswagen AG

trucking subsidiary Traton Group and the venture-capital arm of

United Parcel Service Inc.

It received a loan through the pandemic government-assistance Paycheck Protection Program.

Some large American truckload carriers have also taken stakes in TuSimple. In January, Omaha, Neb.-based

Werner Enterprises Inc.

and Chattanooga, Tenn.-based

U.S. Xpress Enterprises Inc.

announced equity investments.

TuSimple was founded in the U.S. and China and has about 800 employees globally, with 600 in the U.S. and most of the remaining team in China, according to a person familiar with the company’s operations.

Write to Heather Somerville at Heather.Somerville@wsj.com, Ben Foldy at Ben.Foldy@wsj.com and Jennifer Smith at jennifer.smith@wsj.com

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