Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds--and if the United States Postal Service has its way, the robots won't stop them, either. Yes, the agency you know best for bringing you junk mail addressed to whomever lived in your apartment before you has caught robofever. It plans to put semiautonomous mail trucks into service in just seven years, and it seems to think it can pull off a shift away from human driving without shedding mail carrier jobs. That's all according to the postal service's Office of the Inspector General, which oversees the agency and last week released a report on its plans to work autonomy into its 228,000-vehicle fleet. Those plans are already in motion: The post office has partnered with the University of Michigan to build what it's calling an Autonomous Rural Delivery Vehicle, which it wants to launch on 28,000 rural routes nationwide as early as 2025.
Quietly, Australian postal engineers are building the future. Delivery drones were born first as whimsy and then as marketing, lofty ambitions placed on clumsy, flying toys. We saw them in commercials as gimmicks and on 60 Minutes as a promise of the future. And then, slowly, the flash faded. Amazon's multirotor machine gained a bulky, plane-like body.
Virginia residents are getting a sneak peek at the mail truck of the future. A prototype for the U.S. Postal Service's next-generation delivery vehicle has been spotted making the rounds in the city of Leesburg. A Trucks.com reader snapped a photo of the van, which is one of five proposals contending for the multi-billion dollar contract to replace the iconic Grumman LLVs that have been in service since 1987. Commercial truck builder Workhorse confirmed on Twitter that it is the vehicle the company jointly-developed with truck body specialist V.T. Hackney. Workhorse didn't reveal any details about the truck, but has previously said that it would be a hybrid.
The postal service has lost money for 10 years in a row. It says the continuing red ink hurts consumers because it can't make necessary investments to ensure "prompt, efficient and reliable postal services," such as by updating delivery trucks and equipment. Due to public resistance, it dropped a previous proposal to cut costs by eliminating Saturday mail delivery.
The date for this year's Amazon Prime Day may have just leaked, and if it's anything like last year, the deals will be better than Black Friday deals. Amazon is looking for entrepreneurs to help build out its delivery service with tens of thousands of new drivers across the U.S. The expansion of its Delivery Service Partners program, which would let small business owners build their own company with up to 40 delivery vehicles, is the latest piece of the online retailing giant's plan to disrupt the logistics ecosystem. Potentially, hundreds of new small business entrepreneurs could help the company expand its delivery system enough to end reliance on traditional last-mile shippers such as UPS, FedEx and the U.S. Postal Service. As part of the plan, announced Thursday, the new small delivery businesses can get training from Amazon and make use of its logistics technology. Businesses will also be able to get discounts on vehicles, uniforms, fuel and insurance.