Tesla, the pioneering company headed by serial entrepreneur Elon Musk, looks to be the latest organisation developing technology to make driverless truck platooning a reality.
In a leaked email to Nevada state authorities, Tesla has sought permission 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”.
If granted – which the request has not yet been – it would be one of the first tests to not include a human driver in the vehicle.
The world was already aware that Tesla was developing an electric Semi Truck, as the company refers to it, with an announcement in September expected to yield far more detail than is currently available. But this leaked email also now shows Tesla is working on electric, self-driving trucks that can travel in “platoons” or road trains capable of following a lead vehicle.
The concept of platooning is not especially new. In fact more than a year ago, the Dutch government held a demonstration of platooning that involved truck manufacturers including DAF Trucks, Daimler, IVECO, MAN, Scania, and Volvo.
Advocates point to benefits such as safety, where if the lead truck slows the rest automatically follow at a reaction time far faster than any human driver could replicate. Furthermore, platooning would mean lower emissions, with trucks benefitting from better aerodynamics when driven in formation, and an autonomous system driving the vehicle more efficiently.
With Tesla now involved in the development of platooning capabilities, bringing its impressive innovation pedigree to bear, the world continues to watch for notable progress in an area which could revolutionise the transport industry in years to come…