The self-driving freight truck startup TuSimple has been carrying mail across the state of Arizona for several weeks.
American postal service UPS announced on Thursday that its venture capital arm has made a minority investment in TuSimple. The announcement also revealed that since May TuSimple autonomous trucks have been hauling UPS loads on a 185km route between Phoenix and Tucson.
UPS confirmed to Gizmodo this is the first time UPS has announced it has been using TuSimple autonomous trucks to deliver packages in the state.
Around the same time as the UPS and TuSimple program began, the United States Postal Service and TuSimple publicised a two-week pilot program to deliver mail between Phoenix and Dallas, a 1,609km trip.
TuSimple claims it can cut the average cost of shipping in a tractor-trailer by 30 per cent. In an announcement about the new partnership, UPS Ventures managing partner, Todd Lewis, said the venture arm “collaborates with startups to explore new technologies and tailor them to help meet our specific needs.”
UPS would not share the terms of the deal with Gizmodo. TuSimple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The partnership announcement states that TuSimple has been helping UPS understand how to get to Level 4 autonomous driving where a vehicle is fully autonomous and able to reach a particular location. At this point, the TuSimple trucks carrying packages for UPS still have an engineer and a safety driver riding along. When UPS reaches Level 4, it won’t need anyone behind the wheel.
Editor's Note: While this program is currently limited to the U.S., its success could well have implications for the future of Australian (and global) postal services.