Earlier in the month, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) announced its plans to introduce autonomous mail delivery trucks on rural routes by 2023.
USPS, in collaboration with logistics companies, are researching autonomous vehicle solutions for last-mile and long-haul deliveries while focusing on improved safety, lower fuel costs, and increased worker productivity.
These plans were outlined in a 34-page report produced by the USPS' Office of the Inspector General, which highlighted the type of rural delivery vehicle needed and self-driving scenarios.
Some ideas for efficiency improvements have included relegating the postal service worker to sorting activities while the self-driving vehicle runs its routes. A second use affixed barcodes to mailbox poles "read" by the truck's cameras, initiating a stop with an alert to reveal all packages served at that location.
Other report pages log possible solutions for suburban and inner-city routes, as well as strip malls, route reinforcements, and mobile P.O. boxes.
As for next steps, the University of Michigan has been assigned with delivering a semi-autonomous delivery truck prototype by Dec. 2017.
After that, USPS is expected to partner with a self-driving manufacturer to launch a pilot project testing self-driving trucks in 10 rural routes before expanding up to 28,000 by 2025.
On cost, autonomous mail delivery trucks would only add up to an estimated $10,000 to the actual cost of each car while saving millions of dollars in annual fuel expenditures.
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