Tesla is poised to begin testing a self-driving semi-truck in an advancement that could help revolutionize shipping, according to multiple reports.
The Silicon Valley automaker met with transportation department officials in Nevada in June about its plans to test a driverless truck crossing between the states, according to a document obtained by Reuters.
Tesla has long planned to reveal an electric semi-truck at an event in late September with production launching within two years. But details about the vehicle's driving system have not been reported.
Officials at Tesla, the California DMV and Nevada DMV were not immediately available to comment Thursday morning.
"It's going to be a cool product and will defy people's expectations on what an electric truck can do," Tesla CEO Elon Musk told investors in May.
Auto industry experts have long expected that autonomous vehicle technology will roll out widely in trucks before other vehicles. That's because highway driving is much more predictable than city driving, making it easier for a self-driving suite of sensors and cameras to handle the ride.
The document obtained by Reuters indicated that Tesla is planning to test trucks without anyone in the cab, which would require special government permission. The company also reportedly plans to test the trucks in a platooning manner, which refers to a strategy of ensuring the trucks travel closely together.
"Platooning has the potential to significantly reduce the running costs for truck operators and is an easier bridge to a practical, commercial semi-autonomous application in the early 2020s," Evercore ISI analyst Arndt Ellinghorst said Thursday in a note to investors.
"However, the time-frame during which even platooning can safely be delivered without a driver in the vehicle remains to be seen and we believe, as per other autonomous technologies, that deployment with full 'hands-off and eyes-off' will take longer than many anticipate."
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