By August 11, 2017 Read More →

Tesla autonomous semi trucks in development, closer to prototype: Reuters

autonomous semi trucks

Tesla says it is hoping to test its autonomous semi trucks in Nevada, but has not said when the long-haul trucks will be ready to hit the road.  Tesla image.

Autonomous semi trucks may be unveiled in September

Reuters reports Tesla Inc is developing a long-haul, electric autonomous semi trucks that will eventually move in a formation where a number of semis will automatically follow a lead vehicle.

In an e-mail discussion with the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles, the California company is looking to test the semi trucks under the Nevada DMV.

SKYACTIV-XNext Wednesday, California officials will meet with Tesla “to talk about Tesla’s efforts with autonomous trucks,” state DMV spokeswoman Jessica Gonzalez told Reuters.

According to tweets from Tesla’s founder Elon Musk last April, Tesla plans to unveil the electric truck in September and is moving closer to real-life testing.

The competitive commercial transport industry is also being studied by Uber Technologies and Alphabet Inc’s Waymo.

Companies see the industry as low-hanging fruit for technology due to relatively consistent speeds and little cross-traffic trucks face on interstate highways.  Also, autonomous vehicles would allow long-haul truckersto rest while the trucks were on the road.

Reuters reports some companies are working on technology called “platooning”, where trucks follow one another closely.  The need for drivers would be cut back if trucks at the back of the formation could automatically follow a lead vehicle.

Peloton Technology is working with a number of truck manufacturers, including Volvo, on its platooning system, which is seen as a precursor to autonomy.

On July 10, in an e-mail exchange seen by Reuters, Nasser Zamani, Tesla regulatory offical, wrote to April Sanborn of the Nevada DMV.

In the e-mail, he said  “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.”

As of yet, no companies have tested self-driving trucks in Nevada without a person in the cab.

Tesla declined to comment on the matter.

Skeptics remain concerned that the limited range of an electric battery could mean Tesla can’t deliver on long-haul, battery operated trucking at this time.  Companies have poured money into electrifying local delivery vehicles, but Venkat Viswanathan of Carnegie Mellon University said electric long-haul trucking is not economically feasible yet.

The large batteries required mean “Your cargo essentially becomes the battery,” Viswanathan told Reuters.

UPS says its diesel trucks used in cross-country hauls can travel up to 500 miles on a single tank.  Scott Phillippi, UPS’s director of maintenance and engineering, international operations says the company’s electric local package delivery trucks can travel up to 80 miles on a full charge.



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