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With the all-electric Tesla Semi scheduled to debut next month, news has developed regarding a plan for the trucks to be part of a system of driverless “platoons.”
Reuters reported that the company is getting close enough to a prototype that it has discussed road tests with the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles and planned to meet with California officials. The article quoted California DMV spokeswoman Jessica Gonzalez who said a meeting planned for Wednesday was scheduled “to talk about Tesla’s efforts with autonomous trucks.”
Autonomous driving technology for long-haul trucking has received considerable attention from Silicon Valley, as it’s expected to be the first major market for the technology. Since long-haul trucks are generally on interstates traveling at consistent speeds with little cross-traffic, they are prime candidates for autonomy. Truck “platoons” could potentially eliminate the need for drivers by ordering the self-driving trucks into a close formation to follow a lead vehicle. Such a development would have a massive impact on the trucking industry and American job market.
So, it’s particularly interesting that Tesla is pushing to test driverless trucks.
In a letter obtained by Reuters, Tesla regulatory official Nasser Zamani wrote to Nevada DMV official April Sanborn: “To insure we are on the same page, our primary goal is the ability to operate our prototype test trucks in a continuous manner across the state line and within the States of Nevada and California in a platooning and/or Autonomous mode without having a person in the vehicle.”
Tesla and Musk have slipped a few details about the truck. Musk said to expect the “highest weight capability with long-range” and more torque than any diesel truck. He said the trucks will use Model 3 electric motors. Tesla has also released an abstract rendering of the truck.
At the Tesla’s 2017 Annual Shareholder Meeting in June, Musk hinted that there will be more to announce in September than an electric truck. “I really recommend showing up for the semi truck unveiling – maybe there’s a little more than what we are saying here,” Musk said.
Perhaps, Musk was teasing his platoon plan.