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Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, met with Department of Motor Vehicles officials in California on Wednesday to discuss testing of an electric long-haul semi-truck.
Musk released this teaser image of the electric semi-truck in May during a TED Talk. He commented in the TED Talk that spectators think that the truck “does not have enough power or it doesn’t have enough range, but with the electric semi we want to show that an electric truck actually can pull a diesel semi uphill.” He also informs the audience that this truck will be single speed – no gears.
Nevada Already On Board
According to Reuters, Musk previously corresponded with Nevada transportation officials via email to discuss plans to test such technology. Tesla sought Nevada’s approval to test this technology throughout the state by having their self-driving trucks travel in platoons.
Their testing proposal indicated that no one would be in the cab during testing. The trucks would be solely operating on the autonomous driving technology.
USA Today reported, “Nevada DMV spokesman Alex Smith confirmed that the agency met with Tesla in June but declined to provide details.” It has been reported in the past that Nevada has accommodated computer linked trucks traveling as a platoon. This version of testing did have a human operator steering the truck, but the braking and acceleration were all automated with system problems being immediately relayed to the driver.
It is still unclear whether testing of autonomous trucks, with no driver in the cab, will be permitted in Nevada.
Tesla Testing In California
Musk was unsuccessful in convincing California to allow autonomous semi-truck testing. Jessica Gonzalez, California DMV spokeswoman, stated in an email to USA Today, “no one can test ‘autonomous’ in California at this time.”
There have been no updates on Tesla’s next move after California denied their request; however, they still plan to reveal an electric semi-truck this September.
Self-Driving Truck Platoons
Tesla envisions their autonomous truck to travel in platoons to increase efficiency and decrease costs.
Platooning is when two trucks drive approximately 30-feet apart while communicating wirelessly to accelerate and brake in unison – in an effort to cut aerodynamic drag. It is thought that long-haul trucks encounter less traffic on highways, and operate at fairly consistent speeds, making it easier for them to be able to travel in a platoon.
A major risk when considering truck platoons is the reactionary time in situations of emergency. The space between platooning trucks is too close for a human driver to prevent an accident with only seconds to respond.
“Immediately when the first truck starts breaking, the rear truck can apply the breaks within a hundredth of a second compared to the human reaction time of 1 or two seconds,” Joshua Switkes, Owner of Peloton Technology, told KOLOTV.
Engineers of autonomous trucks not only think that this sort of tailgating would be much safer than trucks traveling independently, but they also make it evident that platoons could save the trucking industry thousands. The wind resistance avoided by the trucks in line could save each truck a minimum of 10-percent in fuel costs.
Parade of Driverless Trucks
Tesla is not the only company experimenting with platooning and autonomous driving features. It was released in February that Peloton and Omnitracs partnered to offer similar truck platooning technology.
“However, the time-frame during which even platooning can safely be delivered without a driver in the vehicle remains to be seen and we believe, as per other autonomous technologies, that deployment with full ‘hands-off and eyes-off’ will take longer than many anticipate” Evercore ISI analyst Arndt Ellinghorst said Thursday in a note to Tesla investors.