Dylan Hong

December 8, 2017

Tesla’s New Semi is a Breakthrough in Autonomous Safety

Days before the product’s unveiling, Elon Musk told the world, “This will blow your mind clear out of your skull and into an alternate dimension.” And for many people, he did. Under no load, the fully electric semi truck can go 0-60 in 5 seconds, 4 times faster than the average long-haul truck. Additionally, with a full 80,000 pound load, Tesla’s truck can still reach 60 in 20 seconds. Standard diesel trucks take around 2 minutes! There are many excited statistics that relate to performance, efficiency, and cost savings, so I absolutely recommend The Verge’s 9 minute highlight reel of the event. However, there were some very important tidbits about the truck’s autonomous features that were hardly even talked about.

Tesla set out to create the safest semi-truck you can buy. To accomplish this goal, every truck Tesla sells will have advanced autopilot as a standard. This includes features such as emergency breaking, automatic lane keeping, and forward collision warnings.

One feature that starts creeping more into the realm of human-car interaction is the truck’s medical emergency handling feature. If the truck notices that the driver is not being particularly active, it will ask the driver if he/she is okay. If the truck does not hear a response, full autopilot will take over. According to Elon Musk, the truck will “stay in lane and put on the emergencies… It will actually call emergency services and get an ambulance. It’s going to take care of you, it’s going to take care of other cars, [and] it’s going to take care of pedestrians. This is a massive increase in safety.” Long-haul truck drivers spend so much of their time at the wheel, that their likely hood of having a serious medical emergency behind the wheel is higher than average. This autonomous technology could save countless lives and give peace of mind to drivers.

The technology to accomplish this level of autonomy and safety, the Tesla semi uses the same hardware suite from the Model S, 3, and X. This means there will be 8 cameras, 1 radar, and ultrasonic sensors scattered all around the body. Additionally, the raw data from most of these cameras will be accessible to the driver, something that can’t be done from Tesla’s passenger cars. This is to allow the truck drivers a 360 degree view of their surroundings and eliminate blindspots. Elon Musk also mentioned convoy technology that will be implemented with the trucks. This will use the autonomous technology to have Tesla semi trucks follow each other for maximum aerodynamic efficiency. This would make the driver more like a train driver, because the line of trucks will be linked together by software.

The Tesla semi is a phenomenal feat of engineering on it’s own. Throwing in the autonomous features as a standard, is a big move in the direction of autonomous driving overall. It also makes me wonder when these features will become standard for passenger cars. For a base price of 150,000 USD, these trucks are really not a terrible price, and are a big step in the direction of normalizing autonomous driving.

Also, check out the new roadster. While not anything special in terms of self-driving, it has a range of over 600 miles on a charge and hits 0-60 in 1.9 seconds making it the fastest production car period.


https://electrek.co/2017/11/26/tesla-semi-vp-trucks-electric-presentation/ https://www.thestreet.com/story/14388046/1/teslas-new-electric-semi-truck-coming.html https://www.tesla.com/semi/
Dylan Hong
Human Factors Engineering