Tesla: Self-Driving Semi-Trucks On The Way

Tesla's teaser image of the semi truck

Tesla is working on self-driving technology specifically tied to its forthcoming electric semi-truck plans, according to a Reuters report.

In order to discuss the possibility of these tests, Tesla regulatory official Nasser Zamani wrote to a Nevada DMV representative, "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".

Reuters reported on two emails between Tesla and the Nevada DMV that spoke about this potential vehicle. After recently unveiling the Tesla Model 3, the company is now developing self-driving semi-truck.

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. Daimler, Volvo, and other semi-truck makers have invested in the technology and carried out demonstrations on highways.

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Some companies also are working on technology for "platooning", a driving formation where trucks follow one another closely.

The fact that Tesla is working on an electric truck is not new.

According to the report, details of which were carried in a number of other news outlets in the U.S. and internationally, the DMV was asked about platooning tests along with autonomous driving tests of the vehicles involving both the neighbouring states.

It's unclear, however, how Tesla envisions platooning, which can be done with or without a lead driver.

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Self-driving cars, though, have been tested on California roads.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced over 12 months ago that he was planning to produce a heavy-duty electric truck. Tesla seems to be passing through scrutiny over the safety of using Autopilot since last year's fatal crash in Florida.

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

Vehicles that platoon must continually communicate with each other and the infrastructure around them, but the distances between them are far too short to allow a human driver to react in time to emergencies.

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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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