Tesla semi truck to test self-driving, capable of 'platooning'

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Tesla CEO Elon Musk previously announced that the company would unveil an electric truck in September, but didn't hint that it would be self-driving.

Reuters has seen emails between Tesla and the Nevada DMV where the two sides discussed "potential road tests" of the truck's self-driving capabilities.

The Reuters report also mentioned that the semis would be outfitted with autonomous functions, so they could traverse the nation's highways without a driver in the front seat. Now, a leaked email exchange between Tesla and the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), seen by Reuters, reveal that the company is developing electric, self-driving semis that move in "platoons" trailing a lead vehicle.

The idea of "platooning" autonomous semis is an old one.

If successful in its pursuits, Tesla could disrupt the truck manufacturers, the energy sector, and the drivers themselves.

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Will Tesla be the first to bring automated trucks to the masses? Tesla offers semi-autonomous features on all of its current models in the form of Autopilot, which costs an additional $5,000 at the time of purchase. Platooning reduces the number of drivers that a shipping company would have to employ. It's not surprising to see autonomy on Tesla's trucks. Otto was shortly thereafter sold to Uber, where it became embroiled in a scandal with the Nevada DMV for flouting the state's autonomous testing rules.

The truck is expected to be officially revealed in September 2017, however, before that, the company is taking its prototype testing quite seriously.

An official from a state authority of Nevada has confirmed that Tesla has not yet been granted a license for testing its upcoming truck automation technology.

DHL, for example, already uses an entirely hybrid-electric trucking fleet in Manhattan, and plans to be fully electric in the next 30 years, while Google's parent Alphabet and Uber Technologies are pursuing self-driving trucks.

Venkat Viswanathan, a lithium ion battery researcher at Carnegie Mellon University, said that electric long-haul trucking was not yet economically feasible yet, and that the massive batteries required to compete with the 500-mile range of diesel trucks would limit cargo carrying capacity.