In just over a year, TuSimple co-founder Xiaodi Hou proclaimed himself CEO of the autonomous trucking startup, was fired by independent directors, and now has quit the board over rumors he sought TuSimple employees to join him in a new company.

In a two-sentence 8-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday, TuSimple said Hou had resigned “effective immediately.” Hou co-founded the company in 2015 and previously served as chief technology officer. 

Prior to Hou’s resignation, the company was conducting an internal investigation into rumors that he was approaching TuSimple employees about leaving the company to join him in a new venture, according to the SEC filing. Hou resigned while the investigation was ongoing.

Hou owns about 10% of TuSimple shares. In November, he transferred his rights for super-voting shares that he and co-founder Mo Chen received when TuSimple went public in April 2021. With his 10:1 super-voting shares and those owned by Hou, Chen controls about 59% of the voting rights in the company.

TuSimple was the first autonomous trucking company to demonstrate “driver out” capability when a robot-driven truck traveled 80 miles from Tucson, Arizona, to a rail yard near Phoenix in December 2021.

A long, strange year at TuSimple

A series of events last year combined with general market abandonment of technology startups dinged TuSimple’s reputation as an early leader in autonomous trucking.

In March 2022, Hou unexpectedly pushed out CEO Cheng Lu to take over as the company’s day-to-day leader. Most of Lu’s management team left over the next few months.

In April, a human-supervised TuSimple truck reacted to an out-of-date computer command and crossed a lane of traffic on Interstate 10 near Tucson, smashing into a concrete barrier. No one was hurt. But media attention led to questions about the readiness of driverless trucks for prime time, particularly those from TuSimple. 

Then in October, TuSimple’s four independent directors fired Hou. They claimed he had lacked transparency with the board about TuSimple employees working with a startup founded by Mo Chen. Ten days later, Hou fired the four independent directors, temporarily leaving Hou as the company’s only director. 

Lu returned as CEO in November amid the boardroom drama. Chen, who left his role as chairman in June, returned as executive chairman. TuSimple since appointed Four new independent directors. But Chen’s voting power means he has the final word on everything board related.

TuSimple lays off 350 TuSimple employees

Navistar International ended its 2½-year development partnership with TuSimple in December. That left TuSimple without a development partner for the redundant chassis critical to unmanned trucking.

In late December, Cheng laid off 25% of TuSimple’s workforce — about 350 people — and reset the company’s priorities to lessen reliance on autonomous freight hauling and refocus on research and development.

TuSimple was cleared earlier this month in the I-10 crash. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration closed its investigation without assessing penalties. The company implemented FMCSA-suggested changes.The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration declined to open its own investigation.

Related articles:

Co-founder gets voting control of TuSimple

Cheng Lu back as TuSimple CEO

TuSimple lays off 350 employees as its fortunes worsen

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Alan Adler.

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