Coverage: Tesla wants to test an autonomous driving truck
Tesla Inc. has met with California and Nevada agencies about testing an autonomous semi truck ahead of Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk’s unveiling of the next addition to the electric-car maker’s lineup.
Dana Hull of Bloomberg News had the news:
The California Department of Motor Vehicles is meeting with Tesla on Wednesday, said Jessica Gonzalez, a spokeswoman for the agency. The department is working with the California Highway Patrol on crafting regulations that would cover testing of vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds, which isn’t allowed yet, she said.
Tesla also has met with the Nevada DMV, spokesman Alex Smith said. The company doesn’t have an autonomous testing license and hasn’t filed an application, he said. Tesla declined to comment.
The states are confirming what analysts have speculated since Musk touted the progress Tesla was making on a semi in April, when he tweeted that the company’s truck team was doing a “seriously next level” job. The auto industry has adopted a system for measuring the performance of autonomous vehicle systems, with higher levels being capable of more driving-related tasks.
Marc Vartabedian of Reuters reported that Tesla faces competitors:
Several Silicon Valley companies developing autonomous driving technology are working on long-haul trucks. They see the industry as a prime early market for the technology, citing the relatively consistent speeds and little cross-traffic trucks face on interstate highways and the benefits of allowing drivers to rest while trucks travel.
Some companies also are working on technology for “platooning”, a driving formation where trucks follow one another closely. If trucks at the back of the formation were able to automatically follow a lead vehicle, that could cut the need for drivers.
Silicon Valley startup Peloton Technology, for example, is working with several truck makers including Volvo on its platooning system, which it sees as a precursor to autonomy.
Tesla’s high-flying shares, up almost 70 percent this year, closed down 0.5 percent at $363.53 on Nasdaq, but rose slightly after hours.
Darrell Etherington of TechCrunch reported that the company has yet to apply for a license to test the truck:
While neither Tesla nor Elon Musk has mentioned autonomy in relation to their electric transport truck plans, the automaker’s CEO has discussed potential surprises to be revealed alongside the big rig this fall. It’s also been working a lot on Autopilot improvements, something Musk said during his most recent Tesla earnings call that he himself spends a lot of time on.
Platooning could mean that the autonomy requirements aren’t much more technically advanced that those found in current Autopilot systems for consumer Tesla vehicles. A lead vehicle with a human driver could be used, with autonomous follow vehicles that cut down on the total need for drivers and increase overall efficiency.
Tesla reportedly wanted to meet with Nevada to discuss the testing of two prototype trucks, so it sounds like the project is quite far along. The automaker hasn’t yet applied for a license to test the vehicles, however, so that could be coming later, once the trucks themselves are a known quantity revealed to the public.