Ahead of Tesla’s electric semi-truck reveal, the EV maker has been in talks with Nevada to test new autonomous technology that it calls “platooning.” This is according to an email exchange between the electric car maker and the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), seen by Reuters.
Additionally, according to a California DMV spokeswoman, Tesla met with California officials to discuss the company’s autonomous semi-truck technology but is not aware of the trucks’ autonomy level.
Part of a May and June email exchange between Tesla and the Nevada DMV included the agenda for a meeting held on June 16 with the Nevada Department of Transportation. That agenda mentioned the testing of two prototype trucks in Nevada.
“To insure 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,” Tesla regulatory official Nasser Zamani wrote to a Nevada DMV official. On July 10, Zamani asked the Nevada DMV about the requirements for acquiring a testing license.
Platooning is a driving formation that requires trucks to follow one another closely, led by a lead vehicle with a driver or equipped with semi- or fully autonomous driving technology when allowed. The trailing trucks simply follow along, possibly cutting the need for drivers or allowing them to rest.
This type of technology is almost perfect for long haul semi-trucks as they usually maintain constant speeds and run into minimal cross-traffic when traveling on interstate highways. Tesla is not alone in developing this type of technology. Silicon Valley startup Peloton Technology is working with several truck makers on its platooning system.
Last year, as part of his Master Plan Part Deux, Tesla CEO Elon Musk outlined the company’s future product strategy, including its plans for an electric semi-truck. In April, he teased an image of the electric semi and said the unveiling would be held in September. He repeated that promise at the company’s June shareholder meeting.
Tesla is a global leader in autonomous technology, offering semi-autonomous features under the Autopilot name on the Model S and Model 3 electric sedans and the Model X electric crossover. The company is likely testing its autonomous semi-truck technology behind closed doors and hopes to test on public roads soon. So if you see a platoon of self-driving semi-trucks crossing the California-Nevada state line, there’s a good chance they belong to Tesla.