USPS Is Testing Self-Driving Trucks With TuSimple Autonomous Technology Kuebix

USPS Is Testing Self-Driving Trucks With TuSimple Autonomous Technology

The United States Postal Service (USPS) has awarded autonomous-truck creator, TuSimple, a contract to conduct a 2-week pilot program of self-driving trucks starting on Tuesday, May 21, 2019. The self-driving truck startup reached “unicorn status” earlier this year with a $1 billion valuation.

This trial run will transport mail more than 1,000 miles each way between Phoenix and Dallas over the two week period and be used to gauge the affect self-driving trucks could have on delivery times and operational costs for the mail service. TuSimple will complete five round-trips, hauling USPS trailers from a distribution center in Phoenix to another in Dallas.

Each autonomous shipment will be accompanied by a safety engineer to ensure nothing goes wrong during the journey. TuSimple’s self-driving trucks are ranked as Level 4 autonomous, which means that they are capable of operating without the need for a human driver or monitor in certain conditions. Safety engineers will only be present during test runs and are not expected to be needed long term.

During the USPS pilot, the TuSimple trucks will autonomously navigate I-10, the southernmost cross-country interstate highway in the American Interstate Highway System. The I-10 is one of the busiest highways in the country and roughly 60% of all U.S. economic activity touches its pavement at some point.

TuSimple vehicles will also traverse the I-10 in the USPS pilot, indicating that road conditions are suitable for Level 4 autonomy. 60% of U.S. economic activity touches I-10 at some point, according to TuSimple’s press release announcing the contract. In addition to good operating conditions, the length of the route along with on OTD pressures makes it an ideal candidate for self-driving trucks to replace traditional, human-operated ones where drivers work in teams to relay shipments, often working overnights. These factors make it the ideal testing grounds for a long-haul pilot program.

“It is exciting to think that before many people will ride in a robo-taxi, their mail and packages may be carried in a self-driving truck,” said Xiaodi Hou, the founder, president and CTO of TuSimple.

TuSimple’s announcement comes after stalling news about autonomous trucks throughout the industry. Self-driving vehicle creators must battle challenges from regulations to different weather conditions nationwide before they can hope to begin selling to the public or government. TuSimple’s new contract with USPS to conduct a two-week pilot is seen as the next step in the process of making autonomous delivery a reality in the United States.

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How Virtual Reality is Transforming the Trucking Industry

Virtual reality (VR) is most commonly known for its recreational use in video games. However, the advanced application of technology is beginning to gain traction and be recognized for its improvement of training programs in a multitude of industries. Forbes Magazine reported that VR-based training programs can reduce the amount of time it takes to train a new hire by 40% and improve that employee’s performance by 70% in comparison to a traditionally trained new hire. Through the incorporation of programs involving VR, companies can cut costs and improve performance at the same time.

Virtual Reality in Trucking

The trucking industry is no exception to this steadily rising trend. UPS has estimated that by the end of 2018, they will have put 4,000 new package delivery van drivers through a training program that involves virtual reality.

With VR-based training programs, new hires have the ability to train for their new position as a driver without incurring costs related to insurance, gas, maintenance, or repairs. Traditional methods of training require either physical experience on the roads or watching videos of other people explaining the dos and don’ts of vehicle operation. While physical experience can be costly and tutorial-like videos can be disengaging, virtual reality eliminates both of these concerns and promotes a hands-on, remote method of training.

Companies who implement virtual reality into their standard training methods are also finding that it reduces the risk associated with traditional approaches. Potential accidents or vehicle damage that may happen during the training process are both costly and dangerous. Through VR-based training programs these two scenarios are avoided. In fact, programs can actually give new hires a chance to repeat dangerous situations that are rare and often times turn out to be costly. If the driver ends up in that situation or a similar one later down the line, they will be better equipped and feel more prepared for how to handle it.

According to a report by the American Trucking Associations, approximately 90,000 truck drivers need to be replaced each year for the next decade to combat the truck driver shortage the industry is experiencing throughout America. VR-based training programs teach new drivers quicker than traditional methods, getting them out on the roads faster while still being just as effective.

Not including the cost of accidents, traditional styles of training for truck driving can cost up to $7,000. Despite the growing need for more drivers in the industry, many companies cannot afford such a steep price. Companies adopting VR-based training are experiencing lower costs as well as better quality training programs that are finished in less time. Although it requires an initial investment, VR-based training programs are rapidly gaining traction in the trucking industry.

 

drone supply chain Kuebix

How Drone Technology is Going to Shape the Future of Supply Chain

What’s the Big Deal?

Drones are classified as “a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) which typically refers to a pilotless aircraft that operates through a combination of technologies, including computer vision, artificial intelligence, object avoidance tech, and others.” Their flexibility to perform virtually any report or inspection and easily collect and share data has allowed them to gain recognition as a much more valuable asset than many realized upon their entrance into the technology world. While they are most commonly recognized through their involvement with the military and recreational use, drones are working their way into a multitude of industries worldwide, including the supply chain.

Where are Drones Now?

Despite an initially negative connotation, drones have evolved and proved their worth through the benefits they provide to both personal and professional life. Drones have the ability to sharply capture significant moments in history such as life-altering political addresses and sports games that keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last second. NASA depends on them to collect footage of potentially dangerous areas in the universe and Amazon has started to use them to speed up the delivery process of small packages in certain regions.

How are They Evolving?

Drones are sold in a variety of shapes and sizes and offer an array of features such as cameras, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), navigation systems, sensors, and more. Models sold commercially are typically smaller in size and lightweight, allowing them to be launched out of hand and controlled via remote. As a result of their relatively simplistic goals, commercial drones are limited in battery life and how far they can travel. Advanced models that are used in the military or for mapping can fly for longer and be controlled from much further away.

What Does This Mean for the Supply Chain?

The continued progress in the development and use of drones has led to their successful implementation into supply chain operations from the warehouse to the road. Drones are collaborating with humans as well as operating in place of an individual. They are performing tasks such as delivering products from place-to-place in the warehouse, distribution center, or yard and transporting goods from densely packed storage areas to the proper station for the next step. Drones are being used to increase speed and efficiency and combat the 40% turnover rate warehouse operations are facing.

Drones are also increasingly being used in final-mile operations. Amazon has stated that they are working on a program where they use small drones capable of carrying up to five pounds’ worth of cargo to deliver products to end customers in as few as 30 minutes. Drone operations outside of contained locations (like warehouses) are more experimental at this time and come with governmental restrictions and worries about safety, so drone programs aren’t widely being employed at this time. With mega-companies such as Amazon working on drone delivery systems, however, it’s expected that drone technology will become common sights all across America in the next few years. This will drastically change the face of supply chain and add to already increasing customer expectations around the speed of delivery.

What Can We Do?

For the stability of the supply chain, utilizing the latest in technology is now more important than ever. Consumers want their products to reach them quickly and without error. Having an organized and efficient system is an essential part of preventing customers from turning to a competitor.  If drones continue to flourish within the supply chain and more companies start to integrate them into their operations, those who ignore the trend will face the consequences. Every company should actively make an effort to remain one step ahead of the competition in all things technology so that they can be prepared for future tech like drones when they finally become mainstream parts of the supply chain.