May 21 (UPI) -- The U.S. Postal Service kicked off a mail delivery test program using self-driving trucks on Tuesday.
USPS teamed up with San Diego-based autonomous truck company TuSimple to make a total of five round trips to deliver mail between Phoenix and Dallas, with the first truck leaving Phoenix on Tuesday morning.
"We are conducting research and testing as part of our efforts to operate a future class of vehicles which will incorporate new technology to accommodate a diverse mail mix, enhance safety improve service, reduce emissions and produce operational savings," USPS spokeswoman Kim Frum told CNBC.
The USPS Office of Inspector General outlined a plan to adopt autonomous vehicles two years ago and put out a request for ideas about using autonomous technology in its delivery process last year, Bloomberg reported.
The partnership with TuSimple represents its first contract with an autonomous provider for long-haul deliver services.
"Performing for the USPS on this pilot in this particular commercial corridor gives us specific use cases to help us validate our system and expedite the technological development and commercialization progress," TuSimple president and CEO Xiaodi Hou said.
The current test run will last about two weeks and will feature a safety driver behind the wheel of the truck and an engineer in the passenger seat to monitor the autonomous systems.
Once the test is complete, USPS will reassess its relationship with TuSimple regarding future projects.