U.S. Postal Service Begins Testing Self-Driving Trucks for Delivery

United States Postal Service testing TuSimple's autonomous trucks

A safety driver will sit behind the wheel to intervene if necessary and an engineer will ride in the passenger seat. He said the pilot marks the first time a US government agency fleet has publicly announced road tests with a Level Four autonomous system - vehicles that can navigate without human intervention under most conditions.

The US Postal Service is working with a self-driving truck company to test autonomous mail deliveries along a key route in the Southwest. Self-driving trucks could save hundreds of millions by eliminating human drivers and the hours-of-service rules that keep them from driving round the clock.

Founded in 2015, TuSimple is already operating self-driving trucks out of Tucson, Arizona as it develops commercial-ready Level autonomous driving technology for the logistics industry.

Two years ago, the USPS Office of Inspector General outlined a step-by-step approach for the adoption of autonomous vehicles, and then earlier this year put out a request for ideas on using autonomous technology in its delivery fleet.

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TuSimple Chief Product Officer Chuck Price said that the long drive between Phoenix and Dallas is ideal for their self-driving truck technology because the distance reaches beyond the range of a single driver.

While consumers may hear more news about the development of self-driving cars, the $800 billion U.S. trucking industry is primed for early adoption of autonomous technology. Without TuSimple's technology, the postal service would typically use multiple drivers to complete this journey. In other words, you're not going to see a self-driving mail truck coming down your street.

Just as with autonomous cars, we're still a long way from allowing a truck to self-drive without having several fail-safe systems in place. 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. Its trucks have been carrying cargo for customers in Arizona since past year.

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