Postal Service tests mail shipments on self-driving trucks

Daniel Fowler
May 22, 2019

The USPS is now evaluating a variety of autonomous technologies in an effort to increase driver safety, reduce fuel costs, and boost productivity, according to a Postmaster General report on the topic.

The Postal Service "is investigating the feasibility of utilizing autonomous delivery-vehicle technology as an integrated part of its vehicle delivery fleet", according to the filing.

The United States Post Office will run a set of limited tests this month that will see an autonomous tractor trailer deliver mail between distribution centers in Phoenix and Dallas, reports CNBC.

TuSimple says via press release that they plan to run a series of self-driving trucks for 22 hours each, including overnight driving, along the I-10, I-20 and I-30 corridors through Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, during the pilot program. The human truck driver will be responsible for driving the truck on surface streets but will leave the interstate driving to the self-driving truck technology. A driver will sit behind the wheel in case of emergencies and a safety engineer will ride shotgun to monitor and assess the trucks' performance.

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This type of time-critical, longhaul route that typically requires team drivers is particularly well-suited to automation, said Chuck Price, chief product officer at TuSimple.

"The work with TuSimple is our first initiative in autonomous long-haul transportation", Frum said. It is unclear whether self-driving mail delivery will continue after the two-week pilot.

The company operates its US fleet of self-driving trucks out of Tucson, Ariz., and is in the process of expanding that fleet to 50 vehicles. The American Trucking Associations estimates a shortage of as many as 174,500 drivers by 2024, due to an aging workforce and the difficulty of attracting younger drivers.

Earlier this year, TuSimple announced it raised $95 million in its Series D round of funding, which lifted the company's total funding to $178 million. "This run is really in the sweet spot of how we believe autonomous trucks will be used", Price said.

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