Tesla is working on electric, self-driving trucks that can travel in "platoons" or road trains capable of following a lead vehicle, according to leaked correspondence with regulators. It is not yet clear when these self-driving and platooning tests will begin, though the company has not yet acquired either of the necessary licenses and the semi truck itself hasn't even been unveiled (it will be next month).
Tesla is expected to launch an electric semi-truck at an event in late September with shipments to be within two years.
CEO Elon Musk revealed during Tesla's 2017 Shareholder meeting that the company has been meeting with several heavy-duty trucking companies on development of a Tesla Semi prototype that can be driven like a "sports car".
Reuters reports that emails uncovered between Tesla and Nevada's DMV discuss testing of prototype trucks across the California-Nevada border "in a platooning and/or Autonomous mode without having a person in the vehicle". It has only now been stated however, that the vehicle will be self-driving.
Since October, Tesla has been adding fully autonomous functions to all Model S and Model X units being built, and announced that the new technology would later be applied to the Model 3.
Reuters also reported that California DMV officials will meet with Tesla this week "to talk about Tesla's efforts with autonomous trucks".
The industry is seen as lucrative, due to the relatively consistent speeds and little cross-traffic that trucks face on highways.
"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.
Gonzalez declined to elaborate further and messages to Tesla seeking comment were not returned.