U.S. Postal Service Trying Driverless Trucks

It was only a matter of time before the advent of self-driving cars would lead to self-driving trucks, and now one of those automated trucks could be delivering your mail. The U.S. Postal Service is reportedly experimenting with using automated trucks on long-distance routes. "It's a two-week test run involving mail in 18-wheelers running between Phoenix and Dallas, and they will be fully autonomous," says Quentin Brogdon, a North Texas civil attorney who has studied and written about self-driving vehicles.

Brogdon tells KTRH that the U.S.P.S is looking to save money at a time when there is a shortage of truck drivers. "There's a huge financial incentive to start using autonomous trucks specifically," he says. "But that does not mean that these are necessarily safe or ready for prime time."

The trucks will have a human inside who can take the wheel if something goes wrong, but that has not prevented accidents with automated cars in the past. Brogdon points to last year's deadly crash involving a pedestrian hit by an automated Uber vehicle, in which the human inside the car was not paying attention and failed to act in time. "The mere presence of a backup human safety driver does not ensure that safety will be foremost in this deal," he says.

Ultimately, the idea behind automated trucks is to make deliveries cheaper and more efficient, while saving money for struggling entities like the postal service. However, Brogdon urges caution in adopting this technology. "If I'm in my little BMW or whatever car I'm in on the road, and there is an autonomous 18-wheeler beside me, I'm not very comfortable," he says. "The question is whether the technology is mature enough to have (self-driving) 18-wheelers on the road."

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