Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ:TSLA) has switched its attention to self-driving trucks that can travel in ‘platoons’ after releasing the much-awaited Model 3. Reports indicate that the company’s first electric truck is slated for release in September as the company closes in on its first prototype for road testing.
Tesla Electric Trucks
Talks have reportedly taken place between the pioneer of electric cars and Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles as the company seeks permission for the proposed trials. Seen email discussions indicate that Tesla plans to operate its prototype trucks in autonomous mode without any person behind the wheel.
“To ensure we are on the same page, our primary goal is the ability to operate our prototype test trucks in a continuous manner across the state line and within the States of Nevada and California in a platooning and/or Autonomous mode without having a person in the vehicle”, said, Nasser Zamani, Tesla regulatory official.
By developing self-driving electric trucks, Tesla is essentially expanding its footprint into the commercial transport sector that is highly competitive. The likes of Uber and Google are believed to be working on similar projects.
Focus on self-driving long haul trucks has mostly been fueled by the fact that such vehicles run on relatively consistent speeds. Integration of self-driving trucks according to tech giants would also go a long way in allowing drivers to take a rest while trucks are traveling.
Just like Tesla, a number of companies are also working on a technology for ‘platooning’. The driving formation allows trucks to follow one another Volkswagen has already platooned a number trucks allowing them to cover over 1000 miles. Daimler is another automaker that has carried out trials on self-driving trucks.
Battery range limitations pose the greatest headwind on self-driving electric trucks becoming the norm in the industry. According to Venkat Viswanathan, a lithium ion battery researcher, electric long-haul trucking may not be economically feasible given, the massive batteries that might be required to power such vehicles.
Tesla stock was down by 2.24% in Thursday’s trading session to end the day at $355.40 a share.