United States Postal Service Teams Up With TuSimple For Driveless Truck Pilot The two-week pilot program will put five autonomous semitrucks on the road, making the journey between Phoenix and Dallas.
NPR logo U.S. Postal Service Tests Self-Driving Trucks

U.S. Postal Service Tests Self-Driving Trucks

A U.S. Postal Service truck backs into a dock at the U.S. Post Office sort center on August 12, 2011 in San Francisco, California. The USPS has partnered with TuSimple to launch a multistate driverless semitruck test program on Tuesday. It doesn't involve home deliveries. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images hide caption

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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A U.S. Postal Service truck backs into a dock at the U.S. Post Office sort center on August 12, 2011 in San Francisco, California. The USPS has partnered with TuSimple to launch a multistate driverless semitruck test program on Tuesday. It doesn't involve home deliveries.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The U.S. Postal Service is experimenting with self-driving trucks to move mail across state lines.

The USPS has partnered with San Diego-based TuSimple on a two-week pilot program focusing solely on a 1,000-mile route between Dallas and Phoenix.

TuSimple's chief product officer Chuck Price told NPR the test runs, which began on Tuesday, will help the Postal Service "become future-ready." The aim of the program, according to the Postal Service, is "to accommodate a diverse mail mix, enhance safety, improve service, reduce emissions, and produce operational savings."

It will involve five round trips, traveling major interstates that cross Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Each truck will have a "safety engineer" and driver on board for the duration of the pilot to monitor vehicle performance and to ensure public safety.

The Postal Service usually contracts out such long-haul trips, which involve large freight trailers carrying thousands of pieces of mail, as opposed to the small trucks making door-to-door deliveries.

Having humans in the driver seat — actually doing the driving — on long-distance routes like the one being tested is challenging "because it's 22 hours in one direction, requires teams of drivers and it's very hard to recruit drivers into this kind of run," Price said.

The pilot marks TuSimple's debut run into Texas. The commercial freight moving company has been operating autonomous vehicles primarily in Arizona since 2018.

The Postal Service also has ideas for using self-driving vehicles for home delivery, perhaps using vehicles that follow behind a mail carrier who walks a route.

It is unclear how much the pilot program will cost, but the Postal Service stressed it does not receive tax dollars for operating expenses.