Elon Musk isn’t happy just dominating the electric car market, he also has his eyes on the long-haul trucking industry. If his current successes are any indication of future growth, then the current players in the trucking sector better get ready.
Tesla is developing electric semi-trailer trucks that can not only drive on their own, but work fleets can operate together in autonomous convoys called ‘platoons’ to increase efficiency on the highway. It appears that Tesla is closer to launching a working version than we thought as the company is in preliminary discussions with the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles about testing permits. This puts Tesla right in the middle of the highly competitive autonomous transport truck sector, competing with Uber Freight, Peloton, and Waymo (Google) in their bid to be first to build road-ready vehicles. Autonomous and connected freight might be the next gold rush segment for electric car companies.
Musk has previously talked about a desire to build out into the burgeoning electric long-haul vehicles segment, but the company has never discussed autonomous and connected semi-trailers until now. The concept of platooned fleet transport has serious potential to increase speed and safety, and reduce fuel costs and downtime. The reality is that Tesla has an uphill battle to produce connected trucks, as critics will point to the company’s previous lack of ability to scale in a timely fashion in the passenger vehicle level segment. The fleet market demands scale on a level that Tesla has yet to demonstrate.
There are a number of powerful tech companies working on similar products and existing big rig manufacturers like Volvo also have a huge head start as they’ve been working on electrification and battery solutions for some time. On the other side, some of the biggest naysayers call out the technology’s inability to go for long distances – a diesel truck can go up to 500 miles on one tank, something no electric vehicle has yet to achieve – and the fact that large batteries weigh too much and take up too much valuable cargo space. While we understand these challenges, we know you should never count Elon Musk out when it comes to developing new solutions to crazy problems.