The driverless car craze is starting to go mainstream, with companies from Uber to Google to Enterprise testing out self-driving automobiles in an effort to stay current and maximize profits. Now the trend could be hitting the public sector as well, with one San Diego startup is helping the Post Office deliver the future to your front door...without a driver!
A two-week test is now underway between Phoenix and Dallas, making use of self-driving trucks from San Diego startup company Tusimple to haul mail between the two cities. During the test, a safety driver and an engineer will be on board to keep an eye on the process and jump in if something goes wrong. But the trucks won't be going door-to-door to drop off your mail just yet. The first phase of the test is five round trips between Phoenix and Dallas to see if the trucks can handle highway driving, and see how much money is actually saved. Experts will also be keeping a close eye on the cargo as well.
The trip is about 2,100 miles, longer than a human driver could go without stopping, which is the point of the new test. The autonomous trucks will be traveling on interstates in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas; fatigue won't be an issue, and in theory the trucks could operate nonstop except for refueling stops. It comes at a time when the American Trucking Association says there's a shortage of truck drivers in the U.S. that could reach nearly 200,000 by 2024. Since most goods are still delivered by truck, that could mean a big backlog on basic items, as well as food and medical supplies.
And that's where Tusimple's Chief Product Officer, Chuck Price says autonomous long haul trucks have an advantage over cars since they stick to interstates, reducing mapping needs and safety concerns from pedestrians and cyclists. If the two-week trial run goes well, Tusimple is hoping to expand the program to other areas. So don't be scared if you see a mail truck with no driver on your street in the near future.