USPS to test self-driving truck deliveries

Andrew Cummings
May 22, 2019

"Everyone has a connection to the U.S. Postal Service", Brown said. Numerous technological advancements have transformed its operations over the years, and there's another big shift coming. Autonomous vehicles could mitigate those problems. It has more than 5,500 tractor trailers in its fleet that deliver mail across the country.

It will involve five round trips, traveling major interstates that cross Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Although TuSimple trucks already make deliveries in Arizona, the new route marks the company's self-driving debut in Texas and across three states.


The thousand-mile route they've been assigned will take about 22 hours to complete. TuSimple states this allows for 35 seconds of reaction time whatever happens ahead of the truck. Partnering with a venerable institution like the Postal Service will make people more comfortable with the idea of autonomous vehicles, TuSimple hopes, and perhaps allay public concerns about their safety.

TuSimple's Chief Product Officer Chuck Price told NPR the test runs, which began on Tuesday, will help the Postal Service "become future-ready". Nevertheless, during the trials there will still be humans on board.


One of the reasons the Postal Service is kicking the tires on TuSimple's trucks is that there's a shortage of drivers in the US right now. The vehicle is capable of Level 4 autonomous driving, which means it can operate itself in most situations without any input from the safety engineer and driver that ride along during testing. The company said the 22-hour route is the ideal demonstration for the potential benefits of the technology, because it typically requires two drivers in conventional trucks.

There are other advantages, too.


"We think this really is the sweet spot for autonomous movement, because traditionally this is done in a slip-seat mode, which is really logistically challenging", he said. They're confident that their autonomous rigs will also be safer, since things like driver fatigue don't come into play.

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