Tesla and self-driving electric semi-trucks
Tesla Inc.’s ambitions to start testing a fleet of self-driving electric semi-trucks is getting in gear.
The company has discussed obtaining testing licenses in two states, according to a report published Wednesday. Reuters claims that Tesla is discussing potential road tests with the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles and that the company has also had a sit-down meeting with California officials “to talk about Tesla’s efforts with autonomous trucks.”
Tesla is proposing to test an electric semi-truck that can drive itself and move in “platoons” that automatically follow a lead vehicle. Platooning is a grouping of vehicles that increases the capacity of roads and also delivers greater fuel economy by creating a slipstream where trucks behind a lead vehicle encounter less air resistance, requiring less fuel to maintain a constant speed
Tesla interest in building self-driving electric trucks was revealed in a master plan published by founder and Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk in 2016 but wasn’t confirmed until Musk stated in a tweet in April that the company was planning to launch its first semi-truck in September.
While seemingly further along the development path, Tesla isn’t the only player here. Both Uber Technologies Inc. and Waymo Inc. both have committed to similar outcomes. Uber did manage to make the first autonomous semi-truck delivery in October, but little has been heard about its progress since, while Waymo has remained silent on its program so far.
That the technology will exist in the next few years is a given. Whether it will be allowed to replace the jobs of existing truck drivers is another matter.
In July, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, a union who represents truck drivers, successfully lobbied Congress for legislation that would place a 10,000-pound weight limit on current driverless vehicles. That limit will allow for self-driving cars and vans, but a single-axle basic semi-truck weighs 20,000 pounds and the largest legal trucks allowed on the road weigh 80,000 pounds. That means the federal legislation, unless changed, will limit the industry before it even gets started.
Source: Silicon Angle