- The United States Postal Service (USPS) began employing self-driving trucks to transport mail between Phoenix and Dallas Tuesday in a two-week trial, according to a press release emailed to Supply Chain Dive.
- USPS is seeking to determine how autonomous vehicles could impact delivery times and operational costs. This first trial is using TuSimple autonomous trucks, which are considered Level 4 autonomous, meaning they can operate without human oversight or intervention in certain conditions.
- A human driver and a safety engineer will accompany every shipment. The trial will include five runs with each being roughly 2,000 miles round trip and all of the trips combining for a total of 45 hours on the road.
Though several autonomous truck efforts have sputtered to a stop, targeted pilots are still underway where regulators and conditions permit.
According to Reuters, a driverless vehicle made by Einride is in daily commercial use by carrier DB Schenker on a public road in Sweden. Last week, Starsky Robotics conducted road tests on a 15-mile stretch of highway in the Tampa, Fla. area in partnership with the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority. And earlier this year, Amazon was spotted using Embark autonomous trucks on I-10 — a highway that runs from California to Florida. TuSimple vehicles will also traverse the I-10 in the USPS pilot, indicating that road conditions are suitable for Level 4 autonomy. 60% of U.S. economic activity touches I-10 at some point, according to the release.
According to TuSimple, long-haul routes under delivery time pressure are particularly good targets since autonomous trucks could replace a team of drivers who would need to share a small space while working overnight shifts.
Drivers remain in short supply and these types of trips are less and less attractive in a market where drivers can virtually choose their employer. TuSimple said in a statement its trucks are intended to free up drivers to handle the shorter routes that require more finesse.
"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, the founder, president and chief technology officer of TuSimple, said in a statement.