The Postal Service is piloting self-driving mail trucks

22 Mai, 2019, 10:54 | Auteur: Auguste Feret
  • United States Postal Service testing TuSimple's autonomous trucks

A self-driving truck startup based in Arizona has landed a trial run delivering mail for the U.S. Postal Service between Phoenix and Dallas, Texas.

Over the course of that two-week trial period, three self-driving trucks provided by TuSimple will complete five round trips between USPS distribution hubs located in Dallas and Phoenix.

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.

While consumers may hear more news about the development of self-driving cars, the $800 billion United States trucking industry is primed for early adoption of autonomous technology. The contract is part of a two week pilot program that starts on Tuesday. It is unclear whether self-driving mail delivery will continue after the two-week pilot.

"This pilot is just one of many ways the Postal Service is innovating and investing in its future", the USPS said in a press release that cited the possibility of using "a future class of vehicles" to improve service, reduce emissions and save money.

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Long-haul highway routes are the logical starting point for autonomous big rigs since they are typically less complicated, traffic-wise, than intercity lanes.

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.

The trucks will travel on major interstates and pass through Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. "These long runs are beyond the range of a single human driver, which means today if they do this run they have to figure out how to cover it with multiple drivers in the vehicle". 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.

"It is exciting to think that before many people will ride in a robo-taxi, their mail and packages may be carried in a self-driving truck", Xiaodi Hou, TuSimple's founder, president and chief technology officer, said in the announcement.

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