Signed, Sealed, Autonomously Delivered: TuSimple Operates New Kind of Mail Carrier in Self-Driving Pilot

NVIDIA DRIVE partner transports U.S. Postal Service shipments ahead of schedule.
by Katie Burke

Snail mail has a new set of futuristic, faster wheels.

NVIDIA DRIVE partner and autonomous trucking startup TuSimple has been hauling mail more than 1,000 miles between Phoenix and Dallas as part of a two-week pilot with the U.S. Postal Service.

Halfway through the test, the self-driving prototypes from TuSimple — which is also an NVIDIA Inception member — have been arriving at the delivery hubs earlier than expected.

“In just a week, we’ve been able to operate safe and efficient deliveries autonomously,” said Chuck Price, chief product officer at TuSimple.

The pilot consists of five round trips, each consisting of nearly 2,200 miles along the I-10, I-20 and I-30 corridors. The commonly traveled route typically takes human drivers about 48 hours to complete.

This trip length creates a logistical challenge for shipping companies like the USPS. Regulations limit truckers to 11 hours at a stretch and there’s a growing driver shortage. The American Trucking Association estimates the industry is short 50,000 drivers, a number that is expected to more than triple to 175,000 by 2024.

By incorporating autonomous driving technology into these long-haul trips, shippers can improve efficiency, ease the strain on drivers and deliver more goods faster.

Partnership for the Long Haul

While TuSimple’s trucks can operate on surface streets and highways, for this project it was agreed to start with highway only, with two human operators supervising the system. This type of geofenced autonomous driving is known as Level 4.

Achieving this level of autonomy requires high-performance, energy-efficient compute capability, which enables the vehicle to process sensor data and perceive objects in real time.

TuSimple’s trucks use NVIDIA technology to perform onboard processing as well as to train its deep learning algorithms to recognize specific objects like traffic signs and emergency vehicles.

“NVIDIA is the only company able to deliver the technology we need to achieve these milestones,” Price said.

The Roads More Traveled

The USPS pilot is just the start for TuSimple’s autonomous trucks delivering goods across state lines.

The startup already has 15 contracts with shipping companies and travels routes around Tucson, Ariz. Sixty percent of economic activity in the U.S. lies in the freight that travels along the I-10 corridor, which connects the southwestern states and makes up a significant portion of the current pilot.

With the help of NVIDIA DRIVE technology, TuSimple plans to expand its efficient autonomous trucking technology to every corner of the U.S.

“We wouldn’t be able to do it without NVIDIA,” Price said.