Self-driving trucks have been delivering cargo between Phoenix and Arizona
In August 2019, the shipping giant UPS, announced that they have become minority share holders in Chinese and San Diego-based automatous driving company, TuSimple. UPS has been using self-driving trucks to deliver cargo since May 2019. The driverless trucks are being driven on routes that stretch between Phoenix Arizona to Tucson as part of ongoing tests.
The autonomous trucks are rated at a level 4 on the SAE (Society of Automation Engineers) level rating. What this means is that a computer is in full control of all aspects of the vehicle. This includes steering, accelerating, breaking, and lane-changing. However, an engineer remains on board to monitor the system at this stage, as required by law.
Vehicles are fitted with nine different cameras that TuSimple claim have a vision range of 1,000 meters. Along with the camera setup, TuSimple use a highly advanced LiDAR sensor. A LiDAR sensor works similarly to radar or sonar technology, firing around 1,000,000 pules of infrared light per second. It calculates how long it takes for light to hit an object, and then returns to the sensor. Using the information from the LiDAR sensors and camera setup, the vehicle is able to create a detailed map of it’s surroundings.
According to developers, the trucks have been tested on 100-mile (around 160 kilometers) stretches of land between Tucson and Phoenix, Arizona. TuSimple claims that the driverless vehicles will reduce the cost of shipping goods by at least 30 percent. Interestingly, this is not the first venture into the world of autonomous freight hauling for the company. TuSimple has several other customers in Arizona that make use of their automated trucks.
UPS aren’t stopping at automated delivery trucks either. Earlier this year, the company decided to test the idea of drone delivery. They successfully delivered medical samples between healthcare facilities in Raleigh, North Carolina. Unfortunately, much like the laws that govern autonomous driving, fully-fledged drone delivery services are strictly regulated, preventing UPS from advancing the technology.