Self-driving semi trucks continue to make headlines as Tesla and other companies look to produce them as quickly as possible.
One of the biggest costs associated with cross country transportation is the human driver, who requires a salary, benefits and sometimes a per mile bonus. Additionally, human truck drivers lose a lot of valuable time in-route, as they must stop for sleep, breaks, and take vacation and sick days. But, that doesn’t tell the whole story. According to the American Trucking Association, the industry currently has a shortage of 60,000 drivers and that number will likely balloon to 100,000 in a just a few short years.
The U.S. Postal Service (USPS), like many other organizations, is looking for ways to cut transportation costs, increase efficiency and find a work around to a lack of drivers. They currently operate more than 5,500 tractor-trailers, and with that comes a significant amount of operating costs. One way it might achieve this goal is through supplementing or replacing their current human drivers with self-driving semi-trucks which, eventually, will require no stops or driver.
In an effort to roll out this technology as soon as possible, the USPS has partnered with TuSimple, a self-driving truck company, to begin experimentation. The company will provide the test vehicle, a safety engineer, and driver in the cab to monitor the prototype’s performance and take control if there are any issues.
The test will be conducted over a 1,000-mile mail run between Phoenix and Dallas. Whether successful or not, this monumental moment will be the first time in history that the USPS has attempted using an autonomous semi-truck for long-haul deliveries.
TuSimple claims that their camera set up can see more than half a mile ahead to spot pedestrians, emergency vehicles, and other road hazards. Technology of this type will be essential when it comes to safety on the road.
In the future, as autonomous vehicles and trucks are inevitably allowed to operate on the road, the corporations will benefit greatly from this cost-cutting technology. Thankfully, it seems that the USPS is fully aware of the trends, and will continue pursuing efficiency while still maintaining dependable and reliable service.