Tesla meets with California DMV to discuss electric semi, eyes autonomous tests

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Updated Aug 11, 2017

Officials with Tesla met Wednesday with California state highway administrators, just more than one month before the Golden State electric vehicle maker is expected to debut its all-electric semi tractor. Reports indicate that the meeting may have, in part, revolved around testing autonomous trucks in the state, though neither party would confirm or deny.

“The California [Department of Motor Vehicles] met with Tesla yesterday to discuss Tesla’s efforts involving electric trucks,” DMV spokesperson Jessica Gonzalez confirmed Thursday.

Gonzalez declined to elaborate further and messages to Tesla seeking comment were not returned.

A report from Reuters published Wednesday indicated California would be the second state to meet with Tesla. In emails obtained by the news agency, Reuters says Tesla is putting self-driving technology into the electric tractor the company expects to unveil in September and hopes to test in Nevada.

Such testing in California will have to overcome several major obstacles, including that any vehicle over 10,000 pounds is not allowed to test autonomous technology on California public roadways. However, Gonzalez says that policy is subject to change.

“The DMV is working with [California Highway Patrol] to develop regulations that cover autonomous commercial vehicles,” she says.

Currently, under California law, an autonomous vehicle is defined as any vehicle equipped with autonomous technology that has been integrated into the vehicle. An autonomous vehicle does not include a vehicle that is equipped with one or more collision avoidance systems, such as electronic blind spot assistance, automated emergency braking systems, park assist, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, lane departure warning, and traffic jam and queuing assist.

According to the Reuters report, Tesla has not yet applied for an autonomous testing license in Nevada.

In Nevada, manufacturers, software developers and parties interested in testing their vehicles in the state must submit an application to the DMV along with proof that one or more of the autonomous vehicles have been driven for a combined minimum of at least 10,000 miles, a complete description of autonomous technology, a detailed safety plan, and a plan for hiring and training test drivers.

Jason Cannon has written about trucking and transportation for more than a decade and serves as Chief Editor of Commercial Carrier Journal. A Class A CDL holder, Jason is a graduate of the Porsche Sport Driving School, an honorary Duckmaster at The Peabody in Memphis, Tennessee, and a purple belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu. Reach him at [email protected]