Email correspondence between Tesla Inc. and the Nevada DMV recently revealed the automobile company is working on a self-driving electric semi-truck that can automatically follow a lead vehicle and move in a ‘platoon.’
The company may develop a prototype soon, and there is speculation that the semi-truck Musk plans to unveil in September, could have self-driving capabilities.
Tesla’s email correspondence with the Nevada DMV suggests that the company is moving towards real-life tests of two prototype trucks in Nevada. The email doesn’t mention any road test dates but expresses Tesla’s desire to take their driverless prototypes in an autonomous platooning mode across the state line between Nevada and California. In July, Tesla enquired about a testing license.
The company is also speaking to the California DMV. The DMV, however, isn’t aware of the level of autonomy of these trucks and Tesla has refused to comment on the story.
Market for Self-Driving Semis
Musk’s team is working on a promising technology that could cut down on the 2 million road accidents worldwide in which semis and heavy duty vehicles are often involved due to driver fatigue.
Other companies like Peloton Technology based in Silicon Valley are also already working on technology for ‘platooning,’ which is a driving formation where trucks closely follow one another and the following vehicles are driverless.
The hurdle lies in limited battery range. Experts say long-haul electric trucking is not economically feasible yet. To compete with the use of diesel, large batteries are required to deliver a range that is similar to the 500 miles that a single tank of diesel achieves. Existing electric local package delivery trucks owned by UPS Inc. currently only manage 80 miles when fully charged.
Tesla officials so far have been tight lipped about any range issues electrical trucks will face but we are certainly hoping that Elon will be able to surprise us again.