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Self-driving rigs for USPS

May 21, 2019.

Navistar modified truck.

Navistar modified truck. © TuSimple.

The United States Postal Service (USPS) is about to test self-driving mail shipment. Over a two-week period, California start-up TuSimple, a self-driving trucking company, will be hauling mail between USPS’s distribution centres in Dallas, Texas and Phoenix, Arizona. The 1,700km run will be covered by TuSimple’s autonomus rigs in about 22 hours, at an average speed of 80km/h. As usual for this kind of test, a person will be on board for safety purposes. TuSimple uses modified Navistar trucks that, like Tesla’s vehicles, navigate based on cameras rather than LiDAR, though each truck does have two LiDAR sensors on board. Cameras can see up to 1km ahead, while LiDARs are limited to 300m.

USPS spends some 4 billion dollars per year on ground transportation services through trucking contractors, and this cost is climbing due to a general shortage of truck drivers. In 2018, the trucking industry estimated that 50,000 additional truck drivers would be needed to fill the trucking gap in the United States. Self-driving rigs could help save hundreds of millions of dollars by eliminating the need for drivers, and by obviating motor vehicle operator hours of work regulations. Last year, USPS posted a 3.9 billion dollar deficit.

The Verge, “US Postal Service will use autonomous big rigs to ship mail in new test.”