US Postal Service trials self-driving lorries
June 4, 2019
Self-driving lorry company TuSimple will carry out a two-week pilot for the United States Postal Service (USPS), performing five round trips hauling USPS trailers more than 1600km between the USPS's Phoenix, Arizona, and Dallas, Texas, distribution centres.
The pilot will be a major test of self-driving lorry technology over long distances, with heavy loads.
Each lorry will have a safety engineer and driver on board for the duration of the pilot to monitor vehicle performance and to ensure public safety.
The USPS is exploring the feasibility of using autonomous delivery vehicle technology to reduce fuel costs, increase safe lorry operation and improve its fleet utilisation rate through longer hours of operation.
California-based TuSimple will run a series of its self-driving lorries for 22 hours each, which includes overnight driving along the I-10, I-20 and I-30 corridors to make the trip through Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. The freight that flows along I-10 corridor accounts for 60 per cent of the total economic activity in the USA. 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 Xiaodi Hou, founder, president and chief technology officer of 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."
According to TuSimple, long-haul routes with short turnaround times, such as this 22 hour journey, are well suited for self-driving lorries 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 driver shortage. The American Trucking Association reports that the driver shortage could reach 175,000 by 2024.