The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) this week began a two-week trial to transport mail across three Southwestern states using self-driving trucks.
According to a report from Reuters, the postal service is working with San Diego-based startup TuSimple, which is using its self-driving truck fleet to begin hauling mail between USPS facilities in Phoenix and Dallas in order to evaluate how the autonomous driving technology might improve delivery times and save costs. During the self-driving tests, a backup safety driver will sit behind the wheel while an engineer will ride in the passenger seat.
The pilot program includes five round trips in total, each adding up to more than 2,100 miles—or around 45 hours—of driving along major interstates through Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. There is no official word yet on whether mail delivery will continue via self-driving trucks after the two-week pilot test. However, if deemed successful, it could lead to a possible solution to driver shortage for freight haulers nationwide.
The American Trucking Associations has estimated a shortage of as many as 174,500 drivers by the year 2024 as the result of an aging workforce and a lack of younger drivers. Additionally, recent safety laws that require drivers to electronically log the number of miles they drive has placed constraints on the speed and efficiency for delivering goods in the trucking industry. Therefore, one of the goals for the pilot program would be to eliminate the need for a human driver.
Source: Reuters via KFGO