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Automaker giant Tesla Inc. will be the newest company to join other Silicon Valley groups in venturing the trucking industry, as it is currently developing its own autonomous electric semi-truck, with the prototype almost ready for testing.

Tesla’s chief executive Elon Musk has revealed during this year’s company annual shareholder meeting that it has been meeting with a number of heavy-duty trucking groups with regards to making the prototype.

He also said that even though people are having doubts whether they will be able to pull this off, they are confident they will be able to accomplished building a long-range truck that is electric. Further details about the all-electric truck are expected to be unveiled at an event happening in September.

Tesla’s Prototype Tests

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According to an email conversation between Tesla and the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), the two parties have been talking about a possible road test for the self-driving truck, capable of moving in platoons guided by a lead vehicle.

The company’s regulatory official Nasser Zamani said in a note addressed to Nevada DMV that to confirm that they are of one mind on the matter, they will have to continuously drive their prototype test trucks across the state and within the states of Nevada and Califonia.

The two vehicles will have to be operated in a platooning and/or autonomous mode, without having anyone in the trucks.

With Tesla asking Nevada DMV that it would like to drive its trucks in a continuous manner, it may just be suggesting that the auto giant wants its autonomous vehicles to move around in a convoy formation.

Tesla can use the convoy formation to its advantage as it can either get it into the transportation business, or it could market its trucks to major transporters, who would carry several products from one place to another.

If the carmaker targets significant logistics through its convoy of trucks, it would potentially differentiate itself from its rivals, and have the upper hand in selling its self-driving electric trucks.    

State DMV spokeswoman Jessica Gonzales has announced that the US-based carmaker is set to meet California officials to discuss on the company’s efforts with autonomous trucks.

They are currently in talks with the California Highway Patrol on creating regulations that would cover test driving vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds since it is not allowed yet. So far, no companies have tested self-driving trucks in Nevada without a person inside.  

Possible Features of the Semi-truck

Musk stated that the vehicle will have the highest weight capability with long-range, adding that it will outdone any diesel truck in terms of torque, and that would be using a lot of Model 3 electric motors.

The platooning mechanism can also help increased aerodynamic efficiency; at the same time reduce drag, allowing the trailing trucks to follow much more closely, and save even more fuel. Platooning is safer to implement as well.

However, platooning has its downside as it can reduce the number of actual human drivers that a shipping company would have to employ.

Musk begs to differ on the matter, saying that truck drivers would still be needed, and that Tesla aims for the truck to be fun to operate which may indicate that maybe, the semi vehicle will not be entirely autonomous.

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