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Tesla Looking To Start Testing Autonomous Semi In 'Platoon' Formation (arstechnica.com) 63

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Tesla is developing a long-haul, electric semi-truck that can drive itself and move in "platoons" that automatically follow a lead vehicle, and is getting closer to testing a prototype, according to an email discussion of potential road tests between the car company and the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), seen by Reuters. The correspondence and meeting show that Tesla is putting self-driving technology into the electric truck it has said it plans to unveil in September, and is advancing toward real-life tests, potentially moving it forward in a highly competitive area of commercial transport also being pursued by Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] and Alphabet Inc's Waymo. After announcing intentions a year ago to produce a heavy-duty electric truck, Musk tweeted in April that the semi-truck would be revealed in September, and repeated that commitment at the company's annual shareholder meeting in June, but he has never mentioned any autonomous-driving capabilities. An email exchange in May and June between Tesla and Nevada DMV representatives included an agenda for a June 16 meeting, along with the Nevada Department of Transportation, to discuss testing of two prototype trucks in Nevada, according to the exchange seen by Reuters.
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Tesla Looking To Start Testing Autonomous Semi In 'Platoon' Formation

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  • by mykepredko ( 40154 ) on Thursday August 10, 2017 @06:05PM (#54986779) Homepage

    I'm not really sure where the comment saying that the cargo would be the battery comes from.

    I'm not sure if they're talking volume or weight - I assumed that the same volume used by a traditional cab would be batteries (as I presume for manually moving the cab in small spaces, a controller, like the ones used for UAVs would be used). Another way to look at the question would be is how far could a Model S go with the front and back trunks as well as the passenger compartment full of batteries?

    I wonder if he's thinking of the autonomous trailers in "Logan", where the cargo container was put on an autonomous bed - even then, there's a lot of volume/weight allowed for batteries.

    Rather than just some vague comments, a better explanation and some numbers explaining the thought process would have been nice.

    • by jezwel ( 2451108 ) on Friday August 11, 2017 @12:23AM (#54988833)
      Tesla model S ~4400 pounds. Battery ~1200 pounds. Range ~315 miles

      Truck cab ~17000 - 22000 pounds. Battery would need to be 4600-6000 pounds for same milage

      If you want to actually take a full load of ~50,000 pounds (plus 10,000 for trailer) you're looking at around 80,000 pounds total weight.
      The battery would need to be around 22,000 pounds for the same 315 mile range, assuming everything else is equal (yeah right). That's the same weight as the current heavyweight cabs right now.

      Something doesn't seem right, so this convoy effect may be what is required to get an equivalent range, by dropping the drag significantly for all but the first cab.

  • I'm thinking this could be great for Australia with their big Road Trains...

  • Platooning is nothing new. Every major truck manufacturer has worked on this to the point of proving the technology in a massive cross EU demonstration last year.

    I'm quite disappointed to see this announcement as it displays a lack of originality, lack of striving for something amazing and above all is now yet another company doing their own thing because the truck manufacturers didn't work together on this.

  • If your car is a tiny european SmartCar, you will not be safe once flocks of semis take to the highways.

    • SmartCars were not intended for the freeway, and are not safe there. They are incapable of protecting their contents in any crash at highway speed. Survival would be by chance.

  • Look out! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by swell ( 195815 ) <jabberwock@@@poetic...com> on Thursday August 10, 2017 @10:30PM (#54988385)

    From TFA: "If trucks at the back of the formation were able to automatically follow a lead vehicle, that could cut the need for drivers. "

    In a tight enough formation it would also reduce wind resistance, greatly reducing energy consumption in following vehicles. Additionally, by alternating lead vehicles, total distance between battery charges would be vastly improved. This is how bird flocks can cover great distances.

    But the result is that you have reinvented the freight train, with all the disadvantages of expensive energy robbing rubber tires, steep hills, city traffic, and the need to share the road with people like me. Look out!

    • by Myrdos ( 5031049 )

      But the result is that you have reinvented the freight train, with all the disadvantages of expensive energy robbing rubber tires, steep hills, city traffic, and the need to share the road with people like me.

      And yet, trucks without any of the advantages of a train, and all of the disadvantages you mentioned, are running right now.

  • ...personal vehicles do this too.

    The scenario works like this:

    You get in your car (or *a* car), and tell it where you want to go. Let's say it's a 50+ km journey using a motorway. Along the way, it's extremely likely that someone else, in another vehicle will be sharing a significant portion of your journey (that's why there's so much traffic on the motorways). So, each vehicle needs only to advertise its intended course, along the way, at regular intervals, then other cars join in - drivi
  • Freight hauling seems to be going back to the concept of a train. A train of containers, moving on a fixed route, with limited human control. The reason it's appealing is because it's efficient, and the simplest way to move large amounts of goods from one place to another.

    The reasons why hauling freight by train has been slowly been replaced by trucks over the last 50 years are many, but the most significant reason is the cost of maintaining the network of roads/rails on which the trains and trucks run. It

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