Tesla: Self-Driving Semi-Trucks On The Way

Tesla's teaser image of the semi truck

Tesla's teaser image of the semi truck

Tesla Inc is developing a long-haul, electric semi-truck that can drive itself and move in "platoons" that automatically follow a lead vehicle, and is getting closer to testing a prototype, according to an email discussion of potential road tests between the auto company and the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), seen by Reuters.

Now some details may have leaked out, in the form of an e-mail conversation between Tesla and the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles seen by the Reuters news service.

While Tesla is yet to officially unveil its next-generation electric semi truck, a report in Reuters added a new turn to the already swirling rumors by claiming that the next-generation truck will have self-driving capabilities.

The platoon technology described by Tesla would allow its electric-semi truck to engage in a lead-follow scenario.

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. Besides producing a video showing an Otto truck driving down a road without any safety personnel in the front seat, the company also executed the drive without the appropriate autonomous testing permit. The idea is to have one truck in the lead with the rest following closely behind, slowing down or speeding up at the same time as the lead vehicle.

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The industry is seen as lucrative, due to the relatively consistent speeds and little cross-traffic that trucks face on highways.

No companies yet have tested self-driving trucks in Nevada without a person in the cab.

Zamani did not mention any dates for potential road tests but inquired about the terms of obtaining an AV testing license.

The commitment was also made clear and repeated during the company's annual shareholder meeting in June.

Venkat Viswanathan, a lithium ion battery researcher at Carnegie Mellon University, said that electric long-haul trucking was not yet economically feasible yet, and that the massive batteries required to compete with the 500-mile range of diesel trucks would limit cargo carrying capacity.

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