A mail carrier for the United States Postal Service makes deliveries at a Florida apartment complex in June 2018. The USPS has partnered with TuSimple to launch a multi-state driverless semi-truck test program on Tuesday. It doesn't involve home deliveries. A mail carrier for the United States Postal Service makes deliveries at a Florida apartment complex in June 2018. The USPS has partnered with TuSimple to launch a multi-state driverless semi-truck test program on Tuesday.
The Postal Service is experimenting with self-driving long-haul semi trucks to transport mail between distribution centers. The U.S. Postal Service is testing its first long-haul self-driving delivery truck in a two-week pilot program that will use an autonomous tractor-trailer to deliver mail between distribution centers in Phoenix and Dallas. TuSimple, a self-driving truck company, is providing the vehicle and will have a safety engineer and driver in the cab to monitor its performance and take control if there are any issues, the company said in announcing the test Tuesday. The Postal Service has been exploring the idea for some time, recently soliciting bids to put semi-autonomous mail trucks on the road in a few years that allow a human to sort the mail while being autonomously driven along the route. "We are conducting research and testing as part of our efforts to operate a future class of vehicles which will incorporate new technology to accommodate a diverse mail mix, enhance safety, improve service, reduce emissions, and produce operational savings," said Postal Service spokeswoman Kim Frum.
The United States Postal Service is going to put mail on self-driving trucks. Starting this week, letters and packages moving between Phoenix and Dallas will travel on customized Peterbilt trucks run by TuSimple, an autonomous startup based in San Diego. There will be five round trips between the two cites, with the first haul leaving from Phoenix this morning. It's the first time that the Postal Service has contracted with an autonomous provider for long-haul service. "This pilot is just one of many ways the Postal Service is innovating and investing in its future," the USPS said in a press release that cited the possibility of using "a future class of vehicles" to improve service, reduce emissions and save money.
TuSimple, a 30-month-old San Diego-based autonomous truck startup, says it is currently testing three Class 8 Peterbilt trucks in Arizona and has already achieved more than 15,000 Level 4 autonomous test miles using its computer vision system. Level 4 autonomy (on a scale of 1 to 5) doesn't require any action by a human driver and is widely considered the first level of "fully autonomous" driving. Chuck Price, TuSimple vice president of product, says the company's advanced vision system uses up to ten cameras in conjunction with sensors, GPS, three millimeter wave radar units and automated HD mapping to achieve a sensing range of up to 300 meters – three-times the range of standard LiDAR. "[LiDAR] is powerful in that you can get your perception problems solved very quickly … however, the perception quality of LiDAR is lower resolution and the sensor itself is very expensive and doesn't have the range that we can get from our [camera] sensor," he says. "We don't believe any competitors can launch a commercial product with a LiDAR solution.
China may be gearing up to pull ahead of the U.S. in the race to overhaul road delivery with fleets of self-driving long-haul trucks. A number of companies are developing automation technologies that promise to lower costs, reduce accidents, and improve overall efficiency for the trucking industry by allowing drivers to make longer trips that include periods of rest. In Europe and the U.S., Volvo, Daimler, Uber, and others are testing trucks capable of driving themselves under expert supervision. But several Chinese-based companies are working on automated trucks, and lenient regulations as well as a desire to overhaul the country's chaotic trucking industry may smooth the way for the technology's introduction. This could provide a handy edge in the race to develop a lucrative new way of hauling goods.