San Diego-based startup TuSimple said its self-driving trucks will begin hauling mail between USPS facilities in Phoenix and Dallas to see how the nascent technology might improve delivery times and costs. A safety driver will sit behind the wheel to intervene if necessary and an engineer will ride in the passenger seat. If successful, it would mark an achievement for the autonomous driving industry and a possible solution to the driver shortage and regulatory constraints faced by freight haulers across the country. The pilot program involves five round trips, each totaling more than 2,100 miles (3,380 km) or around 45 hours of driving. It is unclear whether self-driving mail delivery will continue after the two-week pilot.
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.
Self-driving trucks are moving freight in Arizona using Uber Freight, the company announced Tuesday. The tool helped transfer a load last month from the Midwest to its final destination in Southern California. For 340 miles of the trip, the truck drove itself across Arizona highways. Uber Freight has been coordinating hauls like this since November. This isn't the first time the company has driven self-driving trucks on public roads.
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.
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.