Tesla self-driving truck set for road testing

Tesla self-driving truck set for road testing

Tesla wants an electric long-haul semi-truck that is able to drive itself and move in what Tesla calls "platoons" with other autonomous big rigs following a lead truck.

The electric carmaker is said to be nearing the completion of a prototype of the trucks, according to an email obtained by Reuters between Tesla and the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced over 12 months ago that he was planning to produce a heavy-duty electric truck.

In an email to the Nevada DMV, Tesla sought permission 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", which would be one of the first tests not including a human driver in the vehicle if permitted.

DHL, for example, already uses an entirely hybrid-electric trucking fleet in Manhattan, and plans to be fully electric in the next 30 years, while Google's parent Alphabet and Uber Technologies are pursuing self-driving trucks. No particular date was mentioned, however, as to when this road testing would be.

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Tesla and Uber are not the only companies to look at self driving cars. Last October, the Silicon Valley startup Otto used an autonomous truck to ship beer in Colorado.

Tesla declined to comment on the matter, referring Reuters to the previous statements by Musk, who has discussed the truck in tweets and at the annual shareholder meeting. The company soon will begin testing a prototype driverless truck in Nevada.

Nevada officials confirmed the meeting with Tesla had occurred and said that Tesla had not applied for a license so far.

Platooning, meanwhile, is seen as a way to reduce fuel consumption significantly among trucks with internal combustion engines (which, of course, the Tesla semi would not have).

The company's main task over the next year is to get its lower-priced Model 3 electric vehicle into volume assembly at high quality, a process CEO Elon Musk has called "production hell". One of the greatest challenges truck manufacturers and autonomous vehicle companies face is battery range limitations.

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