The United States Postal Service is going autonomous. At least for a couple of deliveries.
San Diego-based self-driving truck startup TuSimple has won a contract to make five shipments for the agency between its Phoenix and Dallas hubs.
The 1,000-mile trips will use TuSimple’s semi, which is equipped with lidars, radars and cameras, including one that can see 1,000 meters in front of the truck. The vehicle is capable of Level 4 autonomous driving, which means it can operate itself in most situations without any input from the safety engineer and driver that ride along during testing.
Nvidia-backed TuSimple currently has about a dozen prototype vehicles in operation making deliveries for paid customers and plans to have as many as 50 on the road later this year. The company said the 22-hour route is the perfect demonstration for the potential benefits of the technology, because it typically requires two drivers in conventional trucks.
The USPS is currently evaluating a variety of autonomous technologies in an effort to increase driver safety, reduce fuel costs, and boost productivity, according to a Postmaster General report on the topic.
"This pilot is just one of many ways the Postal Service is innovating and investing in its future. 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," the USPS said.
The specific itineraries and budget for the test were not revealed, but TuSimple said the first delivery is leaving on Tuesday and the five runs would be completed over the next two weeks.