Tesla To Develop Self-Driving Semi-Truck, Will Test In California & Nevada

Gwen Vasquez
August 11, 2017

According to Reuters, based on a email obtained by them between Tesla and DMV, the automaker met with transportation department officials in Nevada to discuss about its plans to test a self-driving truck crossing between the states. Reuters revealed the information after viewing an email exchange between Tesla and the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles.

The correspondence and meetings with state officials show that Tesla moving forward in a highly competitive area of commercial transport also being pursued by Uber and Alphabet's former Google vehicle company, now called Waymo.

The latest report shows that Tesla is ratcheting up efforts in the long-haul trucking industry, which is considered a prime contender for autonomous vehicle technology. In 2016, Uber acquired self-driving truck firm called Otto, while Google's Waymo is working on its own autonomous truck program. Daimler, Volvo, and other semi-truck makers have invested in the technology and carried out demonstrations on highways.

Tesla plans to test the trucks in a "platooning" manner in California and Nevada. The advantages of platooning is that it's theoretically safer-if the lead truck slows down, the rest automatically follow.

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The new electric truck in question here is believed to be able to travel in "platoons" - which means autonomously following the path of a leading vehicle. A lead vehicle with a human driver could be used, with autonomous follow vehicles that cut down on the total need for driver and increase overall efficiency. He made no reference to any dates for potential road tests.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced over 12 months ago that he was planning to produce a heavy-duty electric truck. It's not surprising to see autonomy on Tesla's trucks.

Officials at Tesla, the California DMV and Nevada DMV were not immediately available to comment Thursday morning.

Lithium ion battery researcher Venkat Viswanathan of Carnegie Mellon University said electric long-haul trucking is not economically feasible yet.

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