The United States Postal Service has awarded Self-driving truck technology developer TuSimple with a contract to perform five round trips hauling USPS trailers as part of a two-week pilot program.
TuSimple will be tasked with hauling USPS trailers more than 1,000 miles between the Postal Service’s Phoenix, Arizona and Dallas, Texas distribution centers.
The self-driving trucks will have a safety engineer and driver on board for the duration of the pilot to monitor the vehicle’s performance and to ensure public safety. It is the first time that TuSimple will expand its operations outside of Arizona and marks the company’s self-driving debut in Texas.
The Postal Service is exploring the feasibility of using autonomous delivery vehicle technology to reduce fuel costs, increase safe truck operation and improve its fleet utilization rate through longer hours of operation.
TuSimple will run a series of its self-driving trucks for 22 hours each, which includes overnight driving along the Interstate 10, 20 and 30 corridors on a route that travels through Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. TuSimple expects this to be a central route for the company because there is already strong demand from other customers for runs between Arizona and Texas.
Long-haul routes with short turnaround times are well suited for self-driving trucks because they are normally accomplished with driving teams of two, according to TuSimple. TuSimple expects self-driving operations to eventually free human drivers to focus on the shorter, more dynamic and closer to home routes.
"It is exciting to think that before many people will ride in a robo-taxi, their mail and packages may be carried in a self-driving truck," said Xiaodi Hou, founder, president and chief technology officer, TuSimple. "Performing for the USPS on this pilot in this particular commercial corridor gives us specific use cases to help us validate our system, and expedite the technological development and commercialization progress."