The US Postal Service recently awarded TuSimple self-driving trucks the contract to haul mail and packages from the USPS trailers to different areas in the US. Starting today, self-driving trucks are on a two-week pilot with the firm's vehicles making five round trips. The trips will cover around 1,000 miles between the postal service distribution centers in Dallas, Texas and Phoenix, Arizona. During the pilot run, each self-driving truck will run for 22 hours, which includes overnight driving along highways.
According to TuSimple, its self-driving trucks will start hauling mail from Arizona to Texas to see how the technology could improve delivery costs and times. On Tuesday, the US Postal Service initiated the two-week test transporting mails and packages across three US Southwestern states using self-driving trucks. This is the USPS' way of commercializing freight hauling using autonomous vehicle technology.
During the two-week pilot run, an engineer will be on the passenger seat, and a safety driving will sit behind the wheel get involved if necessary. If successful, the pilot program will mark as the latest achievement for the autonomous driving industry. It will also signify a potential solution to the regulatory restrictions and the driver shortage currently faced by freight haulers all over the country.
The US Postal Service and TuSimple declined to reveal the total cost of the program but according to the USPS spokesman, no taxpayers' money was used. Instead, the agency depends on the revenue generated from postage sales and several other products. TuSimple recently raised around $178 million through private financing. This includes financing coming from Chinese online media Sina Corporation and from the popular chipmaker, Nvidia Corporation.
The main objective of the program is to eliminate the need for a driver, which in turn will free freight hauler and shippers from the current constraints of a waning shortage of drivers. According to the American Trucking Associations by 2024, the US will have a shortage of approximately 174,500 drivers because of the difficulty of enticing younger drivers and the aging workforce.
The US Postal Service's partnership with TuSimple's self-driving trucks follows the entry of Einride, the Swedish company that started its freight delivery using driverless electric trucks on a public road last week. These recent developments are in contrast with the efforts of several robotaxi companies like Drive.ai, Uber Technologies Inc., and General Motors' Cruise. These companies tripped in developing self-driving vehicles that can respond and anticipate to humans and explore urban areas in a technologically challenging and expensive act.