The United States Postal Service has begun transporting tests across southwestern states with self-driving trucks. The move appears to be part of an effort to commercialize autonomous vehicle technology for transport.
Self-driving trucks will start mail transportation between the Postal Service’s facilities and Dallas to analyze if the latest technology could boost the service in terms of time and cost, TuSimple, the developer of the self-driving truck, said. A safety driver will be present behind the wheel according to the requirement and an engineer will be next in the passenger seat.
If successfully attempted, the move would mark a commendable achievement for the autonomous driving industry and potentially offer a solution to driver shortage problems. It could also resolve regulatory obstacles that freight transporters often confront across the country.
The pilot driving test consists of five round trips of more than 3,380 km each which are anticipated to take around 45 hours of driving. Still, the United States Postal Service has not decided whether to continue self-driving mail hauling or not.
A USPS spokeswoman said the project with TuSimple was its first attempt to mail deliveries through autonomous vehicles. The Postal Service organization has been engaged in research and testing of its efforts to operate an advanced class of vehicles that could be coupled with the latest technology, she added.
Both firms have refused to reveal the cost of the project, but the spokeswoman said the agency is dependent only on sales revenue for postage and other products. Chipmaker Nvidia and a Chinese online media company financially backed TuSimple to raise as much as $178 million.