U.S. Postal Service to test self-driving trucks

May 23, 2019 //By Rich Pell
U.S. Postal Service to test self-driving trucks
Self-driving truck company TuSimple (San Diego, CA) has announced that the United States Postal Service (USPS) has awarded it a contract to test its autonomous technology as the government agency explores the feasibility of using autonomous delivery vehicle technology to reduce fuel costs, increase safe truck operation, and improve its fleet utilization rate through longer hours of operation.

Under the contract, TuSimple will perform five round trips, for a two-week pilot, hauling USPS trailers more than 1,000 miles between the Postal Service's Phoenix, Arizona, and Dallas, Texas distribution centers. As with other autonomous testing pilots, the truck will have humans aboard - a safety engineer and driver - during the pilot to monitor vehicle performance and to ensure public safety.

“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," says Dr. Xiaodi Hou, Founder, President and Chief Technology Officer, TuSimple. "Performing for the USPS on this pilot in this particular commercial corridor gives us specific use cases to help us validate our system, and expedite the technological development and commercialization progress."

During the pilot, TuSimple will run a series of its self-driving trucks - which have a 1000-meter vision range - for 22 hours each, which includes overnight driving, along the I-10, I-20, and I-30 corridors to make the trip through Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. The freight that flows along the I-10 corridor accounts for 60% of the total economic activity in the United States, and the corridor is expected to be a central route for the company based on strong demand from other customers for runs between Arizona and Texas.

Such long-haul routes with short turnaround times are well suited for self-driving trucks because they are normally accomplished with driving teams of two. Recruiting driving teams for these routes is challenging, says the company, due to overnight driving requirements, the need to share close quarters with another person, and a significant truck driver shortage.

The driver shortage could reach 175,000 by 2024 according to the American Trucking Association (ATA). The company says it is on its way to achieving its milestone of first driverless operations, which is intended to free human drivers to focus on the shorter, more dynamic, and

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