Skip to main content

Driverless trucks with humans onboard will be necessary, regulators say

Tesla logo
Driver not needed, but required. Tesla CEO Elon Musk told the world the company was going to develop the Tesla Semi in July. At the time, he surprisingly suggested the driverless vehicle would probably need a driver anyway, at least for a while, as reported by Electrek.

It was during the announcement of the Tesla master plan part deux, when Musk first talked about the truck. “We believe the Tesla Semi will deliver a substantial reduction in the cost of cargo transport while increasing safety and making it really fun to operate.”

More recently, according to Electrek, Musk told CNBC the first trucks will be used to gather data for regulators as well as add a level of safety. “It’ll be a few years after trucks can self-drive before regulators have seen enough data to feel comfortable not having a driver in the car,” Musk said. “I think it’ll actually be a big safety improvement because you get a lot of accidents when drivers are tired behind the wheel.”

In time, after Tesla and federal regulations are assured Tesla Semis can drive themselves, human drivers will shift roles to become “fleet managers,” overseeing the operation of the truck while the self-driving system does the actual driving.

Tesla and Musk have already stated that all vehicles going forward will have the full suite of autonomous driving hardware. The software required for Level 5 autonomous driving, the highest level where human drivers are not required or potentially even accommodated for any driving condition, is expected to be ready for release near the end of 2017.

The Tesla Semi and Tesla Minibus are scheduled to be unveiled in three to six months, with production starting in two to three years. When the Tesla Semi does come to market, safety and lowered cargo transport costs are likely to have a greater impact on its success than being ‘fun to operate’ for former drivers.

Editors' Recommendations

Bruce Brown
Digital Trends Contributing Editor Bruce Brown is a member of the Smart Homes and Commerce teams. Bruce uses smart devices…
The Tesla Cybertruck, a cyberpunk electric pickup truck, coming Nov. 21
Tesla truck teaser

Tesla's long-promised electric pickup truck officially debuts on November 21 — but patent filings suggest its name has been under our nose all along. Tesla trademarked the Cybertruck and CYBRTRK nameplates, a strong hint that the truck will wear some variation of this term when Elon Musk reveals it to the world on November 21.

Elon Musk unveils Tesla’s Cybertruck with strange looks and great performance

Read more
Truck, yeah! Tesla is using its electric Semi to deliver cars in California
Tesla semi truck



Read more
Latest selfie spot? In front of a Tesla Semi hooked up at a Supercharger station
Tesla Semi Truck

It's a sign of the times when you stop to grab a photo in front of an electric truck charging up. That's what happened when people spotted a prototype Tesla Semi electric truck at Tesla's Kettleman City, California Supercharger station yesterday, Electrek reports.

Two people took photos of themselves and the siver Semi on Instagram yesterday.

Read more