The United States Post Office will run a set of limited tests this month that will see an autonomous tractor trailer deliver mail between distribution centers in Phoenix and Dallas, reports CNBC.
The self-driving tractor trailer is being provided by autonomous truck company TuSimple. But this pilot program will see just five runs, and it won’t go beyond a truck delivering mail between distribution centers. In other words, you’re not going to see a self-driving mail truck coming down your street.
However, if the pilot program goes well, the Post Office does have a long-term goal of automating the mail trucks that do deliver mail to your house. Recently the Post Office has been soliciting bids from companies that could build mail trucks that drive themselves as a postal service worker sits in the back sorting mail to be deposited into people’s roadside mailboxes. Announcing the pilot with TuSimple, postal service spokeswoman Kim Frum said:
We are conducting research and testing as part of our efforts to operate a future class of vehicles which will incorporate new technology to accommodate a diverse mail mix, enhance safety, improve service, reduce emissions, and produce operational savings.
Success of the pilot program with TuSimple could also be a game changer for the Post Office. It has more than 5,500 tractor trailers in its fleet that deliver mail across the country. If those could be automated, the Post Office could save a lot on fuel costs and reallocate human labor to other positions.