Self-driving truck company TuSimple has announced a contract with the United States Postal Service (USPS) that will see it perform five round trips hauling USPS trailers more than 1,000 miles between distribution centres in Phoenix, Arizona and Dallas, Texas.
The two-week pilot marks the company’s self-driving debut in Texas, and will involve a series of its self-driving trucks being run for 22 hours each along the I-10, I-20 and I-30 corridors through Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Each truck will have a safety engineer and driver on board to monitor the vehicle’s performance.
TuSimple said that the freight that flows along the I-10 corridor accounts for 60% of the total economic activity in the US. It expects the route to be a central one for the company because of strong customer demand 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 Dr. Xiaodi Hou, TuSimple’s Founder, President and Chief Technology Officer.
“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 commercialization progress.”
The company believes that self-driving trucks are a good fit for long-haul routes with short turnaround times, such as the one involved in the pilot.
It can be challenging to recruit driving teams for these routes, which usually involve teams of two drivers, because of overnight driving requirements, the need to share close quarters with another person and a shortage of truck drivers that the American Trucking Association believes could reach 175,000 by 2024.