Tesla Makes Plans to Test New Autonomous Semi


Tesla Makes Plans to Test New Autonomous Semi

I’m Ed Smith, a Lodi truck accident lawyer. The California Department of Motor Vehicles announced a meeting this week with Tesla to discuss a new heavy-duty electric semitruck that is autonomous. Last April, Tesla said the company would unveil their semi in September, and now it seems Elon Musk is including autonomous features as part of the package.

Autonomous Semis

In an April announcement, Tesla lauded their engineers saying they were doing a “next level” job. The terminology refers to a system the auto industry uses to describe the level of autonomy vehicles have so that higher levels assume more tasks related to driving a vehicle. For example, level one employs the assistance of a human for acceleration, stopping and steering. In addition, a human exclusively monitors the roadway and any fallback tasks. Level four, on the other hand, represents high automation, and the system is responsible for all tasks from steering to fallback performance. Level five is the top level in this performance evaluation system.

Testing the Prototype

Testing a prototype electric, autonomous long-haul truck has not yet been done by any of the companies envisioning this technology including Uber and Alphabet, the parent company of Google, and Tesla. In an email, Tesla noted that its company wished to test their prototypes across California into Nevada without stopping. The mode of operation, the company stressed, would be automated without the presence of a human in a platoon formation.

A representative of the California DMV said the meeting set for Aug.10 would allow Tesla and the agency to discuss the autonomous trucks and introduce new team members. The DMV is actively working with the California Highway Patrol to formulate new regulations covering the testing of autonomous vehicles with weights in excess of 10,000 pounds, something that is not available at this time. The Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles acknowledged they had met with Tesla and discussed testing parameters but that Musk has not filed an application for a testing license within the state.


Platooning is a term used to describe what has been called a “road train.” It is a formation with a number of trucks tightly following one another. This provides aerodynamic productivity since the lead vehicle would shelter the remaining vehicles from the air that is trying to slow them down. Since the vehicles are autonomous, they can follow each other closely. This has the added benefit of saving battery life.

By reducing the number of drivers, trucking companies will save money. One problem remains since fuel-driven trucks average 500 miles on a straight run per tank of gasoline. Battery-driven delivery trucks used locally can generally average 80 miles on a full charge. Estimates for a semi are not yet available.

Liability for Autonomous Trucks

Since humans will not be responsible for driving the autonomous trucks of the future, the issue of liability will revert to the manufacturer and the software program. In this case, challenging a trucker or trucking company after a car accident or motorcycle-related injuries caused by a truck will deal with product liability and mistakes made in the design of the autonomous system and/or the manufacturing process.

Insurance is another issue. It is uncertain how insurance companies will cover autonomous trucks or the cost of such coverage. While trucking companies will save on the expense of transportation as well as the speed with which products are brought to market, other costs may limit the number of autonomous trucks on the highway.

Related Articles by Lodi Truck Accident Lawyer, Ed Smith:

Lodi Truck Accident Lawyer

I’m Ed Smith, a Lodi truck accident lawyer. If you and/or your loved ones have suffered an injury because of a big truck, please feel free to give me a phone call at (209) 227-1931 to hear my free and friendly advice. I can also be reached at (800) 404-5400.

Since 1982, my legal team and I have upheld the right to fair compensation for traumatic injury victims and those who have suffered a wrongful death in the family.

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