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The U.S. Postal Service is Testing Mail Delivery Using Self-Driving Trucks From TuSimple

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【Summary】​The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) began a two-week trial on Tuesday transporting mail across three Southwestern states using self-driving trucks in a partnership with San Diego-based TuSimple. The pilot program will test the driverless truck technology to see how it might improve delivery times and operating costs.

Eric Walz    May 21, 2019 3:09 PM PT
The U.S. Postal Service is Testing Mail Delivery Using Self-Driving Trucks From TuSimple
A TuSimple self-driving truck

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) began a two-week trial on Tuesday transporting mail across three Southwestern states using self-driving trucks in a partnership with San Diego-based TuSimple, a self-driving truck startup that is looking to disrupt the trucking industry.

TuSimple said its self-driving trucks will transport mail between USPS distribution centers in Phoenix and Dallas. The pilot program will test the driverless truck technology to see how it might improve delivery times and operating costs.

The self-driving trucks will travel on major interstates, including Interstate 10, which runs across Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

The pilot program involves five round trips, each totaling more than 2,100 miles (3,380 km) which takes around 45 hours of driving. It is unclear whether self-driving mail delivery will continue after the two-week pilot.

"This run is really in the sweet spot of how we believe autonomous trucks will be used," said TuSimple Chief Product Officer Chuck Price to Reuters. "These long runs are beyond the range of a single human driver, which means today if they do this run they have to figure out how to cover it with multiple drivers in the vehicle."

While the trucks will be autonomous, there will have a safety driver behind the wheel ready to take over in any unexpected situations, as well as a second engineer in the passenger seat to further monitor the truck's self-driving hardware, computer systems and overall operation.

TuSimple is working to transform the $800-billion U.S. trucking industry. Self-driving trucks have the potential the transform the trucking industry by increasing safety and becoming a solution for the industry-wide shortage of drivers.

The American Trucking Associations estimates a shortage of as many as 174,500 drivers by 2024, due to an aging workforce and the difficulty of attracting younger drivers.

Driverless trucks can also operate more hours per day, since human drivers are limited by regulations capping the number of hours they can drive each day. Unlike in the past, new regulations require that truck drivers to electronically log their miles, which prevents them from exceeding their daily hours behind the wheel.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which monitors the trucking industry, truck drivers are limited to driving 11 hour per day within a 14 hour driving window. Whereas a self-driving truck can operate nearly 24 hours per day.

Utilizing autonomous long-haul trucks could reduce operating costs by about 45 percent, saving the trucking industry between $85 billion and $125 billion, According to McKinsey.

TuSimple developed a long-range camera-based perception system tailored specifically for driverless trucks. The cameras on TuSimple's fleet of Peterbilt trucks have a vision range of 1,000 meters, which is more than any other autonomous perception system today, according to the company. This gives the self-driving trucks trucks plenty of time to react to any unexpected situation that may arise on the road.

Self-driving trucks might appear on public roads even before self-driving cars. From an engineering standpoint, highway driving is much easier to navigate autonomously. On the highway, there are fewer scenarios that a self-driving truck's software must be able to handle, such as navigating around pedestrians and bicyclists and driving autonomously in crowded urban areas.

TuSimple and the USPS declined to disclose the cost of the program, but USPS spokeswoman Kim Frum said that no tax dollars were used and the agency relies on revenue from sales of postage and other products.

"The work with TuSimple is our first initiative in autonomous long-haul transportation," Frum said to Reuters. "We are conducting research and testing as part of our efforts to operate a future class of vehicles which will incorporate new technology."

TuSimple has raised $178 million in private financing, including from Nvidia and Chinese online media company Sina Corp.

TuSimple plans to have its first commercial driverless truck operations underway by the end of 2020.


resource from: Reuters

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