Sure, you may be getting used to the idea of sharing the road with cars that drive themselves — but how do you feel about cruising alongside an autonomous semi-truck?
According to Reuters, Tesla is working on a long-haul, electric, autonomous semi-truck that would travel in “platoons” that are led by one vehicle. As detailed in emails between Tesla and the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles viewed by Reuters, the company is close to testing a prototype.
“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,” Tesla regulatory official Nasser Zamani wrote to a Nevada DMV official.
At the same time, Tesla is getting together with officials in California to discuss its autonomous trucks, a state DMV spokeswoman told Reuters.
Though Tesla declined to comment on the matter to Reuters, CEO Elon Musk announced in April that the company is planning to unveil an electric truck in September, so all these discussions seems to indicate that it’s preparing to compete in the autonomous truck business.
Doing so with an electric truck may prove pretty difficult however, due to current battery range limitations that make it tough for electric trucks to travel the long distances involved in long-haul transport. As one lithium-ion battery researcher explains to Reuters, the massive batteries required would basically be the truck’s cargo.
Of course, Tesla isn’t the only company interested in autonomous commercial transport: In 2015, a company called Freightliner got a license to test its autonomous tractor-trailer truck in Nevada.
Amazon is also working on figuring out how it could use autonomous delivery vehicles — including trucks, forklifts, drones, and sedans.
Most recently, the California DMV started looking into whether Uber may have broken the law by testing its autonomous trucks in the states without getting permission first. Uber claims that the technology its testing is “driver assist” features, like blind spot detection, crash prevention systems, and dynamic cruise control.