Global self-driving truck company TuSimple has won a contract to perform five round trips, as a two-week pilot, for the United States Postal Service (USPS).
The pilot will see self-driving trucks haul USPS trailers more than 1,000 miles (1,609km) between the Postal Service’s Phoenix, Arizona, and Dallas, Texas, distribution centers. The truck will have a safety engineer and driver on board for the duration of the pilot, to monitor vehicle performance and to ensure public safety.
TuSimple will run a series of its self-driving trucks for 22 hours each, which includes overnight driving, along the I-10, I-20 and I-30 corridors through Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. The I-10 corridor is one of the busiest7 freight routes in the USA.
“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,” said Dr Xiaodi Hou, founder, president and chief technology officer, TuSimple. “Undertaking a pilot in this particular commercial corridor gives us specific use cases to help us validate our system, and to expedite the technological development and progress toward commercialization.”
Long-haul routes with short turnaround times, such as this 22-hour journey, are well suited for self-driving trucks because they are normally accomplished with driving teams of two.
According to TuSimple, driving teams are challenging to recruit due to overnight driving requirements, the need to share close quarters with another person and a general shortage of truck drivers.
TuSimple’s chief product officer Chuck Price told US media group NPR that the test runs will help the USPS “become future-ready”. The aim of the program, according to USPS, is “to accommodate a diverse mail mix, enhance safety, improve service, reduce emissions, and produce operational savings”.