5/21/2019 | 1 MINUTE READ

U.S. Postal Service Tests Autonomous Big Rig Trucks

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The U.S. Postal Service is launching a two-week pilot program today to test self-driving trucks that will travel between its distribution centers in Arizona and Texas. 

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The U.S. Postal Service is launching a two-week pilot program today to test self-driving trucks that will travel between its distribution centers in Arizona and Texas.

USPC is partnering with TuSimple Inc., a San Diego-based startup, on the project. The trucks are Navistar and Peterbilt units retrofitted with TuSimple’s technology.

During the pilot program, three of the TuSimple trucks will make roundtrip treks hauling mail nearly 1,100 miles between USPC’s hubs in Phoenix and Dallas. A safety driver and engineer will be onboard to monitor operations and take control of the trucks if necessary.

The 22-hour trips will include overnight driving but will adhere to hours-of-service limits, including switching the safety driver and engineer when required. Much of the route will be driven on the busy I-10 interstate highway through Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. There also will be stretches on I-20 and I-30 in Texas.

The tests will help the partners evaluate vehicles driving in autonomous mode over long distances that cross state lines, with varying conditions and hours of operation. USPC says self-driving trucks could reduce fuel costs, increase safety and improve its fleet utilization rate.

Founded in 2015, TuSimple operate more than 50 Level 4 autonomous trucks that it has been testing with partners in Arizona. The company aims to test fully self-driving vehicles without safety drivers in late 2020 or early 2021.

The I-10 corridor, which transports about 60% of America’s freight, is expected to be a key proving ground for the technology. In 2016, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and California formed the Interstate 10 Corridor Coalition to explore the possibilities of coordinating rules and regulations for connected and automated vehicles over multiple jurisdictions.

TuSimple says it is in talks with several companies about such programs along the route in Arizona and Texas.