22nd May 2019
Self-driving trucks to begin carrying U.S. mail
TuSimple, a self-driving truck company based in San Diego, California, announced yesterday that the United States Postal Service (USPS) has awarded it a contract to perform five round trips, for a two-week pilot, hauling USPS trailers more than 1,000 miles.
These journeys will run between the Postal Service's Phoenix, Arizona and Dallas, Texas distribution centres. The truck will operate with a safety engineer and driver on board for the duration of the pilot, to monitor vehicle performance and to ensure public safety.
This new route is an important milestone, as TuSimple scales its operations beyond Arizona and marks the company's self-driving debut into Texas. A series of its self-driving trucks will run for 22 hours each, which includes overnight driving, along the Interstate 10, 20 and 30 to make the trip through Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. The freight that flows along here accounts for 60% of total economic activity in the United States. 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.
"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 Dr. 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 commercialisation progress."
Long-haul routes with short turnaround times, such as this 22-hour journey, are well suited for self-driving trucks because they are normally accomplished with driving teams of two. Driving teams are challenging to recruit due to overnight driving requirements, the need to share close quarters with another person and a significant truck driver shortage. According to the American Trucking Association (ATA), the driver shortage could reach 175,000 by 2024. TuSimple is on its way to achieving its milestone of first driverless operations, which is intended to free human drivers to focus on shorter, more dynamic and closer to home routes.
The U.S. Postal Service provides the nation with a vital delivery platform that enables commerce, serves every American business and address, and is part of critical infrastructure that has played an indispensable role in connecting the nation over its 240 years of service. TuSimple aims to boost the $800 billion U.S. trucking industry by improving safety, reducing costs, cutting air pollution and optimising logistics for fleet operators.
With a visual range of 1,000 m (3,280 ft), the new trucks developed by TuSimple can see farther and with better-quality visibility than any other autonomous perception system today. They are safer because they can see more and react faster than humans – rain or shine, day or night.