United Parcel Service
The logo of United Parcel Service is seen at the new package sorting and delivery UPS hub in Corbeil-Essonnes and Evry (Photo: Reuters / Charles Platiau)

United Parcel Service (UPS) has been secretly running autonomous trucking tests in Arizona as part of its partnership with self-driving truck startup TuSimple.

The company made an announcement on Thursday detailing the tests. The delivery firm also revealed that it has bought a minority stake in TuSimple as a way of integrating itself further with the tech startup.

The Georgia-based company did not specify the number of shares it had bought nor did it specify how much it had paid for the shares. The investment itself was made through the company's venture arm UPS Ventures. According to UPS, its investment in the tech firm and the tests they had conducted as part of its efforts to remain competitive and to boost its profits.

UPS aims to save on transportation costs for its fleet through the use of technologies developed by TuSimple. The San Diego-based startup company, which has a post-money valuation of $1.095 billion, is reportedly capable of cutting UPS' transportation costs by up to 30 percent using its autonomous driving technologies.

TuSimple is reportedly building a "full-stack" solution for UPS, which means that it will be bringing together a number of technologies to cater to the company's needs. The firm is currently developing a Level 4 autonomous driving system for UPS specifically, which will be able to drive its vehicles without the need for human input during very specific conditions.

While fully autonomous vehicles driving on public roads is believed to be still a few years away, UPS is adamant on jumping headfirst to become a pioneer in the application of the technology.

Some of the technologies being developed by TuSimple can be applied to UPS' fleet today. This includes the company's advanced computer-controlled automatic breaking, which should reduce accidents and repair costs for UPS' fleet.

According to UPS chief strategy officer, Scott Price, the investment the company has made is a testament to the firm's commitment to developing technologies that will greatly enhance its ability to deliver to its customers.

The goal of having fully autonomous delivery vehicles is still far from being realized, but the company is willing to work with its partners to achieve that goal in the quickest time possible. When the company's vision of fully autonomous delivery vehicles is realized, UPS hopes to become a leader in the segment.

Since May of this year, UPS and TuSimple have been running tests using self-driving tractor-trailers in Tucson and Phoenix. The vehicles had delivered freight to the locations with the goal of improving efficiency and reducing costs. The tests, which are reportedly still ongoing, include engineers riding along with drivers on the autonomous vehicles.