Spurred on by the disruption of first movers like Tesla, the electric vehicle revolution is spreading at an extremely rapid pace. With the arrival of vehicles like the Tesla Semi, the EV movement is set to spread to even larger markets. Amidst the Semi’s impending disruption, industry veterans are beginning to get excited about the all-electric long-hauler’s arrival.
One of these veterans is Sean Chenault, who has been in the trucking business for 16 years. Over this time, he has taken on numerous roles, from being a trucker to serving as a manager. Just recently, Chenault expressed his optimism for the Semi, stating that the vehicle “is a good thing for the trucking industry as a whole.”
Chenault further noted that the Semi’s impressive feature set, such as its Class 8 hauling capacity, its 5-second 0-60 mph acceleration time, and its capability to travel around 500 miles per charge, is only the tip of the iceberg for the electric truck’s potential. As a trucking veteran, Chenault pointed out that one of the Semi’s most compelling capabilities would be its semi-autonomous features.
“Having autonomous vehicles, you don’t need to pay a driver, and you don’t need to worry about hours of service,” he said.
When the Tesla Semi was announced, Elon Musk noted that the company’s current technology was already enough to give the electric long-hauler a semi-autonomous feature. Dubbed as “Convoy Mode,” the capability would allow multiple Semis to semi-autonomously draft in close proximity with each other, reducing energy usage from wind resistance.
“The convoy technology, the tracking technology, this is something that we are confident we can today do ten times safer than a human driver. I want to be clear, this is something we can do now,” Musk said.
Concept videos shared by Tesla during the Semi’s unveiling show one manned Semi leading two unmanned electric trucks along a route. Thus, while it might still take some time before Convoy Mode is rolled out to the company’s upcoming fleet of long-haulers, there might come a time when one driver could effectively drive three trucks — or with further software and hardware improvements — possibly even more.
Roadmaster Group CEO John Wilbur remarked that Tesla’s technology would ultimately offer a way to move cargo while reducing the amount of manpower needed to complete tasks. Wilbur highlighted that this particular advantage actually helps address one of the trucking industry’s main challenges today.
“We are struggling to find drivers now. If autonomous drivers are means to eliminate that deficit, it’s a good thing,” he said.
The Tesla Semi is currently being tested on US roads. The silver prototype, for one, has been spotted in multiple states over the past few months. The matte black test mule, which also made an appearance during the vehicle’s unveiling, was recently spotted charging at a Supercharger as well. Elon Musk initially announced that the Semi would start production sometime in 2019, though later statements from Tesla head of investor relations Martin Viecha suggested that the company would “earnestly” start producing the Semi by 2020.