The U.S. Postal Service could deploy autonomous vehicles as soon as 2025, according to a paper prepared by the Postal Service to explore possible use cases for autonomous technologies. USPS and the University of Michigan are working on a self-driving mail delivery truck, the Autonomous Rural Delivery Vehicle (ARDV), the paper said.
That work is ongoing with UM expected to deliver a prototype this December. From there, USPS will search for a company to build the ARDVs with plans to run test them on 10 rural routes in 2019. If successful, the ARDVs would be deployed along 28,000 rural routes between 2022 and 2025.
In the paper, USPS also outlined five potential use cases for autonomous vehicles for its operations. They are:
- Driving the letter carrier: Ideal for curbside delivery, the AV would drive itself from mailbox to mailbox, allowing the carrier in the van to prepare the mail for the next address instead of driving.
- Driverless parking: The vehicle would park itself as the carrier makes deliveries, eliminating the need to look for parking spots while ensuring the vehicle is out of the way of traffic.
- Following the carrier: For walking routes, the vehicle would follow the carrier, reducing walking time to and from the vehicle as well as the heavy loads the carrier has to carry.
- Picking up more mail from the post office: When mail from the sorting facility is late or there are too many packages to fit in the vehicle, an AV can be dispatched to bring the items from the post office to the carrier on his route, saving return trips.
- Mobile parcel locker: A complete departure from current delivery methods, a fully autonomous mobile locker would remove the carrier from the operation. It would come to the customer when convenient, allowing 24/7, on-demand delivery
USPS estimates that the vehicles would cost between $7,000 and $10,000 more than current vehicles in 2025, but efficiencies in productivity and less fuel usage would offset that cost.
Did you know?
In 2015 the U.S. transportation system moved a daily average of about 49.3 million tons of freight valued at more than $52.5 billion, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, with 1.4% annual growth until 2045.
“The underlying hours-of-service rules have not changed. However, for some, this will be their first introduction to hours-of-service rules, and that’s why you see all the fear mongering.”
- Collin Mooney, executive director of CVSA, on criticism on the ELD rule and its impact on HOS rules
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XPO Logistics said it will hire 6,000 seasonal employees to handle the holiday rush this year. With UPS, FedEx and others already looking to add more staff this year, and low unemployment in the country in general, it could put an additional squeeze on companies looking for talent.
Hammer down everyone!
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