Tesla is working on self-driving technology specifically tied to its forthcoming electric semi-truck plans, according to a Reuters report. The tech would allow the transport trucks to move in convoy formation with a lead vehicle providing guidance for autonomous follow trucks, according to emails discovered by Reuters in which Tesla discusses the work with the Nevada DMV.
Tesla is also set to meet with the California DMV to discuss autonomous trucking technology, according to comments made by that organization to Reuters. Tesla has already confirmed that it is working on an all-electric semi truck, set to be revealed in more detail at a planned event teased by Elon Musk to take place in September.
This is relatively familiar territory for any company making serious investment in self-driving tech: Uber acquired Otto, a company founded by former Google self-driving car team members dedicated to autonomous trucking, and it continues that work under its Advanced Technologies Group. Waymo, the Alphabet company created from the Google self-driving car project, has also recently revealed that it also is in the early stages of creating autonomous truck tech.
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.