Driverless trucking software developer TuSimple Holdings reported $1.5 million in revenue from its growing autonomous freight network in Q2, a fivefold increase over a year ago.

The San Diego-based company reported it is still waiting to see how and whether its ownership structure will change based on an investigation by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS).

CFIUS is conducting a 45-day review of the 2017 purchase of TuSimple’s redeemable convertible preferred shares by Sun Dream Inc., an affiliate of China’s Sina Corp., according to TuSimple’s 8-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday.

CFIUS told TuSimple that the 2017 acquisition of the U.S. business of TuSimple LLC by Tusimple (Cayman) Ltd. was the focus of its investigation, rather than the Sina investment. Sina presently owns 5.8% of the voting shares of TuSimple, which went public via initial public offering in April.

“It is not uncommon for these reviews to move into a second stage, particularly for companies engaged in new technology areas, like artificial intelligence,” TuSimple CEO Cheng Lu said on the company’s Q2 call with analysts. “At this stage, we’re fully participating in the process with CFIUS and sharing information, but we cannot predict the outcome of the review at this time.”

In its SEC filing, TuSimple (NASDAQ:TSP) said at the time of the 2017 transaction, a majority of the shares of the company were held by founders Xiaodi Hou and Mo Chen, along with Sun Dream Inc. Hou is a U.S. citizen and Chen is a Canadian citizen. All TuSimple directors and the entire senior management team are U.S. or Canadian citizens, the company said.

TuSimple dismisses comparison to rival’s driverless test

TuSimple, which is preparing to conduct an autonomous test without a driver in the cab in Arizona before the end of the year, dismissed comparisons to similar activity in China that rival Plus publicized through media, including FreightWaves, on Thursday morning.

“It was on a closed highway that hasn’t opened to the public yet,” Lu said. “So, it’s clear this is a very different type of test from our driver-out program, which is on an open highway [with] commercial operations on long stretches of road, on surface streets and highways in the U.S. So it’s not really an apples-to-apples comparison from what we can see.

“In terms of commercialization, my understanding of Plus is they are talking about a Level 2 solution,” Lu said, referring to semi-autonomous operation. “It’s not a driver-out solution. It’s a retrofitted kit that can make diver assistance, so from what we can tell, it’s a different category.”

Plus, which has a joint venture with China’s largest truck maker, First Auto Works, said it was invited by the Chinese government to conduct the driverless demo in late June ahead of equipping FAW trucks with its PlusDrive system this quarter. Those trucks will have a safety driver on board as Plus seeks to accumulate 8 billion miles of real-world driving before commercializing driverless trucks.

By the numbers

In its second report of quarterly financials since going public, TuSimple said its $1.5 million of revenue in the quarter was five times greater than the same quarter a year ago and 57% above the first quarter.

Its first report of adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization was negative $66 million compared with negative $26 million a year ago.

TuSimple hired 188 new research and development employees during Q2, bringing total employment to 1,040. Lu said 80% are involved in R&D.

The company added 3,500 miles of high-definition mapping during the quarter, bringing the total to 8,500 miles. Its fleet of 70 autonomous-equipped trucks — 50 in the U.S. and 20 in China — covered 900,000 miles from April to June, each with a safety driver and an engineer on board. 

TuSimple expects to soon receive the first of 25 additional trucks it purchased from Navistar, its partner in a purpose-built International LT autonomous Class 8 truck targeting production in 2024.

TuSimple received 38 new patents during the quarter, bringing its total to 318.

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Click for more FreightWaves articles by Alan Adler.