Billy Big Rigger! 'Platooning' Self-Driving E-Trucks Next on Tesla's List

Enlarge Yuriko Nakao  Bloomberg via Getty Images

Enlarge Yuriko Nakao Bloomberg via Getty Images

Tesla declined to comment.

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".

Reuters has seen email discussions of potential road tests being negotiated between the company, which for a brief period this year was named the most profitable auto company in America, and the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

In Nevada, manufacturers, software developers and parties interested in testing their vehicles in the state must submit an application to the DMV along with proof that one or more of the autonomous vehicles have been driven for a combined minimum of at least 10,000 miles, a complete description of autonomous technology, a detailed safety plan, and a plan for hiring and training test drivers.

The correspondence and meetings with state officials show that Tesla moving forward in a highly competitive area of commercial transport also being pursued by Uber and Alphabet's former Google vehicle company, now called Waymo. In emails obtained by the news agency, Reuters says Tesla is putting self-driving technology into the electric tractor the company expects to unveil in September and hopes to test in Nevada.

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The latest report shows that Tesla is ratcheting up efforts in the long-haul trucking industry, which is considered a prime contender for autonomous vehicle technology. It has only now been stated however, that the vehicle will be self-driving. Platooning is basically a driving formation where vehicles follow each other very closely.

Long-haul trucks do not face cross traffic when they travel on limited-access highways, and they largely operate at steady speeds.

Silicon Valley startup Peloton Technology, for example, is working with several truck makers including Volvo on its so-called platooning or road train system, which it sees as a precursor to autonomy.

During a TED talk at 2017 TED Conference in Vancouver, Musk put out a teaser photo of the heavy-duty truck.

On the one hand, the thought of having unmanned, self-driving big rigs on public roads will probably give officials in California and Nevada cause to pause.

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