Tesla electric will test self-driving truck in Nevada

Tesla's teaser image of the semi truck

Tesla's teaser image of the semi truck

Tesla is working on self-driving electric semi-trucks that can move in "platoons" behind a designated lead vehicle, Reuters reported this week.

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 previously announced that the company would unveil an electric truck in September, but didn't hint that it would be self-driving.

Nevada DMV spokesperson Jessica Gonzalez told Reuters that Tesla requested for a meeting with California officials on Wednesday "to talk about Tesla's efforts with autonomous trucks", as well as to introduce new staff.

In his TED talk, Musk positioned the electric truck as one that truck drivers would want to drive, instead of a new, self-driving truck.

Self-driving cars, though, have been tested on California roads. Its most popular competition comes from Uber and Waymo, Google's former autonomous vehicle development company now under its parent firm Alphabet Inc. (Otto later claimed it did in fact have an engineer farther back in the cab of the truck.) It appears Tesla learned Uber's lesson and contacted the state's DMV first, although the Nevada DMV said that Tesla has not yet applied for the necessary permits to test an autonomous semi in the state. If self-driving trucks become predominant on the roads, it could steal business from Berkshire owned railroad Burlington Northern, Buffett hinted.

Tesla declined to comment on the matter, while Nevada officials confirmed that the company had not yet been given a license for the testing.

Vehicles that platoon must continually communicate with each other and the infrastructure around them, but the distances between them are far too short to allow a human driver to react in time to emergencies.

There are also a number of Silicon Valley startups working on platooning technology for fleets of long-haul trucks. It's unclear whether the lead vehicle would have a driver or operate autonomously with a person in the front seat to monitor safety. Tesla plans to reveal the electric-semi truck next month.

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