A Glimpse at Recent USPS Self-Driving Truck Tests!
To this day, many people still refer to the US Postal Service as snail mail. Notorious for slow delivery speeds and lost packages, the moniker just stuck and never went away. However, all of that might be changing soon as the USPS is testing out their own self-driving trucks.
According to a recent report published at the Wall Street Journal, the United States Postal Service, in conjunction with technology firm TuSimple, is currently testing self-driving trucks over a 1,000-mile run. Stretching from Phoenix to Dallas this initial test run should give them enough data to begin working out the kinks.
If successful, the implementation of self-driving trucks across the United States will quickly become a reality.
The road trip from Phoenix to Dallas typically takes 22 hours for the average long-haul trucker to navigate. With the new ELD mandate in effect, this means that it would take a single-truck driver almost 3 full days to move freight between these two cities.
Essentially, the implementation of self-driving trucks could reduce that three-day road trip to a mere 24-hour period.
What is Involved in this Self-Driving Truck Test?
The test itself is managed by technology firm TuSimple. It involves the use of five round trips between distribution centers located in Dallas, Texas, and Phoenix, Arizona. They navigate three interstate highways that are normally serviced by current trucking companies that use two-driver teams that comply with the ELD Mandate and other Federal Regulations on driver-performance.
This specific test is where self-driving technology really begins to shine. The 22-hour long-haul would require two drivers to complete it, normally. If a self-driving truck can pull off such a feat, it would reduce the amount of qualified CDL drivers needed to move freight. Ironically, these long-haul trips are also a big contributing factor to the current driver shortage in the shipping industry.
If successful, and full-autonomous truck driving routes are possible, it can free up those current drivers to operate manually operated routes where shortages exist. This would significantly reduce shipping rates due to supply and demand.
According to Chuck Price, the Chief Technology Officer of TuSimple, this test is the ‘sweet spot’ of current over-the-road issues. The ‘straight-line’ routes comprise of very little mountainous terrain and are mainly straight roads which reduce the amount of driver input needed. The tests are being completed using the two driver method, but with some sections of the routes being driven by the on-board computer, similar in many ways to on-road tests for consumer-self-driving vehicles.
They use a series of cameras that the company claims can see more than ½ mile ahead. This is to better predict emergency vehicles, road hazards, or pedestrians. During the test, there are in-vehicle occupants ready to take over in case of an emergency. Better yet, there is a series of relay teams and engineers monitoring data in real-time.
What About the 3.5 Million Current Truck Drivers Currently 0n the Road?
According to the American Trucking Association, there are over 3.5 million active professional truck drivers working in the United States. The potential of self-driving trucks has caused many drivers to be cautious about the implementation of such technology. The fear is that these self-driving machines will somehow replace current truck drivers.
However, most industry experts agree that a completely autonomous truck is more than 20 years away from becoming a reality. Even if that does happen, it is quite possible that most insurance companies will require a human occupant inside the vehicle. This would need to be someone that is qualified to take over in case of an accident.
Overall, we do not expect to see self-driving vehicles replacing truck drivers anytime soon.
With the USPS testing out autonomous trucks, the race to the future of trucking is about to get fierce.
Want to learn more about autonomous trucking and how to get a head-start on the competition? Reach out to the experts here at Redwood Logistics!