AUTO INDUSTRY

UPS tests self-driving trucks in Arizona

UPS said on Thursday it has bought a minority stake in self-driving company TuSimple, and the world’s largest package delivery company has been testing the start-up’s autonomous trucks since May on a busy freight route in Arizona.

The investment by UPS Ventures, the company’s venture capital arm, underscores bets that autonomous vehicle technology can expand more rapidly in commercial vehicles than in robotaxis.

It could take years to test and develop self-driving vehicles and for the government to build a regulatory framework. But UPS sees the investment as a way to apply autonomous driving features such as lane departure technology, advanced braking systems or sensor technology in its own fleet in the short term, said Todd Lewis, managing partner at UPS Ventures.

UPS and TuSimple did not disclose the size of the investment. TuSimple’s other investors include Chinese online media company Sina and U.S. chipmaker Nvidia.

In February, TuSimple said it had raised $95 million in a funding round led by Sina.

TuSimple is also working with Amazon as the online retail giant builds its own transportation ecosystem. (Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

Experts says self-driving trucks are an easier proposition than robotaxis.

— Reuters

MANUFACTURING

Clothing companies to combat factory abuses

Clothing chains Levi Strauss, the Children’s Place and Kontoor Brands agreed to start a pilot program aimed at combating gender-based violence and harassment at five factories owned and operated by supplier Nien Hsing Textile in Lesotho.

The accord, backed by civil and women’s rights groups, five Lesotho-based labor unions and the U.S.-based Worker Rights Consortium, Solidarity Center and Workers United, will offer protection to more than 10,000 workers in the southern African nation. It follows a Worker Rights Consortium investigation that documented a pattern of abuse and harassment.

The pilot program will run for two years, and be funded mostly by the three clothing companies. It also has backing from the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The Worker Rights Consortium investigation found that managers and supervisors coerced many Nien Hsing workers into sexual relationships and subjected them to harassment.

— Bloomberg News

Also in Business

Sentiment among U.S. consumers tumbled for a second week in the largest back-to-back slide since March 2011 as global demand fears sparked stock-market volatility and led to more pessimistic household assessments of the economy and personal finances. The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index decreased 1.7 points to 61.2 in the week ended Aug. 11, according to data released Thursday.

The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission said on Thursday that Kraft Heinz and Mondelez International will have to pay a $16 million penalty regarding a wheat market manipulation case that dates to 2015. Kraft and Mondelez bought $90 million of December 2011 wheat futures, which gave the companies a dominant position in the market, even though they never intended to take possession of the grain, the CFTC said. The move sent a false signal and caused an artificial price fluctuation that earned them more than $5 million in profits, the CFTC said.

Coming today

8:30 a.m.: The Commerce Department releases housing starts for July.

— From news services