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UPS is piloting driverless delivery

Some consumers in Arizona have been receiving UPS packages courtesy of autonomous vehicles.

UPS is testing self-driving tractor trailer trucks from autonomous driving company TuSimple on a route in Arizona to determine whether the vehicles can improve service and efficiency. The pilot began in May 2019 with the goal of helping UPS better understand the requirements for Level 4 (L4) autonomous trucking in its network.

L4 autonomous means the vehicle’s onboard computer is in complete control at all times, eliminating manual intervention. Currently, laws regulating L4 autonomous driving require a driver in the vehicle at all times to take over operation if needed.

Throughout the ongoing tests, UPS has been providing truckloads of goods for TuSimple to carry on a freight forwarding route between Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona. The company initiated a self-driving service with a driver and engineer in the vehicle. TuSimple and UPS monitor distance and time the trucks travel autonomously, safety data and transport time. TuSimple believes it could cut average purchased transportation costs by 30%.

Through its UPS Ventures private equity strategic investment arm, UPS has now made a minority investment in TuSimple.

“UPS is committed to developing and deploying technologies that enable us to operate our global logistics network more efficiently,” said Scott Price, UPS chief strategy and transformation officer. “While fully autonomous, driverless vehicles still have development and regulatory work ahead, we are excited by the advances in braking and other technologies that companies like TuSimple are mastering. All of these technologies offer significant safety and other benefits that will be realized long before the full vision of autonomous vehicles is brought to fruition – and UPS will be there, as a leader implementing these new technologies in our fleet.”

UPS is steering ahead with its autonomous delivery pilot as e-tail giant Amazon is also developing its own driverless package delivery capabilities. In February 2019, Amazon invested in Aurora Innovation, a Palo Alto-based self-driving transportation startup. Amazon has also received a patent for self-driving trucks, and is reportedly using self-driving cargo trucks on the I-10 highway which runs from California to Florida.
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