About a year ago, Tesla’s autopilot feature in self-driving cars made headlines for some unfortunate reasons, including the implication of the software in multiple crashes. One driver even used the feature to sneak a nap, but added alertness is what Tesla’s engineers seem to believe will make development of a self-driving semi-truck prototype a relatively safe option. The word “nap” is never mentioned, but “rest” does pop up, and since truck drivers are prone to exhaustion, some “recharging” time could be a good thing.
According to an exclusive Reuters report, Elon Musk’s company has that goal partially in mind and hopes to test such a prototype in September. The outlet viewed emails between Tesla and the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles, for Musk wishes to test not only in that state, but the company is reportedly speaking with California as well. Musk has dropped hints about an electric semi-truck before, but the added auto-driving software would be a new development. Remarkably, the field is already a competitive one, and Tesla wants to be the first (of course) with these benefits in mind:
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.
According to the emails examined by Reuters, development hasn’t hit any roadblocks, but given the recent rash of cancelled orders on Tesla’s Model 3 luxury car, anything could happen in terms of demand. Understandably, folks might not feel comfortable with self-driving semis on the road, and Tesla did not respond to questions from Reuters on the subject.