Why it matters to you
Tesla’s electric semi truck is already a challenge to the status quo, but autonomous driving could really shake things up.
Last year, Tesla CEO Elon Musk mentioned an electric semi truck in his updated “master plan.” In April, he announced that the truck would be unveiled in September. Now a report claims the truck may be autonomous as well as electric.
Tesla is not only working on a self-driving truck, but it has already contacted the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles about testing it on public roads, according to Reuters. The news service cited an email exchange between the company and the Nevada DMV regarding tests of two prototype self-driving trucks in the Silver State.
Meanwhile, Tesla also asked for a meeting with the California DMV, according to Reuters. A spokesperson said the meeting was meant “to talk about Tesla’s efforts with autonomous trucks.” Nevada officials confirmed meeting with the company on June 16, but said the company hadn’t applied for a license to test autonomous trucks.
Nevada and California are part of the handful of states that have explicitly legalized the testing of autonomous vehicles on public roads. Nevada also happens to be the home of Tesla’s massive battery “Gigafactory.” California currently places a weight limit of 10,000 pounds on autonomous vehicles testing on its roads, which excludes semi trucks. Tesla argued against the weight cap in comments submitted to the California DMV earlier this year.
In the email exchange with Nevada officials, Tesla also reportedly discussed the concept of “platooning.” This would involve multiple autonomous trucks following a lead vehicle, basically operating as one unit. Platooning autonomous vehicles has been discussed before as a way to improve traffic flow and maximize the number of vehicles on the road, but it will remain just an idea unless autonomous-driving technology is perfected.
Musk has never publicly mentioned autonomous-driving capability for the semi truck, but Tesla is developing autonomous cars. Musk has said the suite of sensors in its current electric cars will allow fully-autonomous driving, pending the development of new software, and an okay from regulators.
If Tesla really is developing an autonomous truck, it’s not alone. Uber is already testing self-driving trucks, although the ride-sharing giant is still locked in a legal battle with Waymo over the tech. Waymo is itself mulling self-driving trucks, as are a handful of other companies, including Amazon.