Tesla CEO Makes Bold Prediction About Future of Driverless Trucks
Palo Alto, CA – Tesla CEO Elon Musk offered a bold prediction last week about the near future of driverless semi-trucks.
During an earnings call last week, Musk was asked when the company’s long-awaited electric big rig dubbed “Tesla Semi” would hit the market.
While explaining why Tesla Semi was not yet commercially viable, he dropped an interesting prediction about which maker of driverless semis, in a growingly crowded field of competitors, would be the first to achieve full autonomy.
Musk said it was “highly likely” his prized Semi, which first made its public debut in 2017, would be the first to reach Level 5 automation.
“I’m not sure who would be number two, but yes, it seems highly likely, yes,” he prognosticated.
The Semi, Musk added, will deploy the same autonomous hardware as the company’s passenger cars, but with a few modifications needed to the software parameters for Autopilot or Full Self-Driving systems.
“We just need to inform the vehicle, inform the Full Self-Driving brain, that it is now in a semi truck,” he explained. “You have different control functions because there are turns that you could do in a regular car that you cannot do in a Semi. Like, you don’t want to try to parallel park this thing on the street in a city. It needs to know its limitations being a giant truck.”
Tesla currently has 1,000 vehicles in its beta program to test its Full Self-Driving platform.
Transportation giants such as UPS and Walmart were among the first companies to place orders for the Tesla Semi.
Mega Carriers Place Other Bets
Meanwhile, other mega carriers such as Werner, Schneider National and U.S. Xpress seem to be placing their bets on TuSimple.
Transportation Nation Network (TNN) was the first to report this month the three fleets have each purchased an ownership stake in the driverless technology maker.
A TuSimple spokeswoman told TNN late last year the company plans to make its fully autonomous semi available for commercial distribution in 2024.
Other major carriers such as Ryder System, DHL, and NFI last fall announced a partnership with Ike, another Silicon Valley-based self-driving tech developer.
In a statement at the time, Ike described its “vision” is for automated trucks to drive on the highway and then “hand off loads to truckers in manually-driven trucks for the journey to and from the interstate.”
The three carriers have already reserved the first 1,000 Class 8 tractors powered by Ike’s technology and are “collaborating in several areas” to help Ike test, prepare and launch its commercial operations.
Not to be outdone, earlier this month self-driving tech startup Aurora announced a partnership with PACCAR to begin building what it describes as “truly driverless-capable trucks.”
The first two models slated for delivery will be the Peterbilt 579 and the Kenworth T680.
The self-driving tech company says it has an “expansive commercialization plan for the deployment of these trucks at scale over the next several years.”
Other competitors like Waymo, Kodak, and Plus.ai are also in pursuit of making autonomous trucking history.
TNN will continue to bring you the latest developments, so make sure to stay logged on to TransportationNation.com.
Photo courtesy of Tesla