Tesla Semi has the technical capability to convoy today

Darrell Etherington
Tesla Semi has the technical capability to convoy today

Tesla founder Elon Musk revealed at the Tesla Semi unveil that the truck can work in a convoy mode, with a three-truck convoy beating not only traditional diesel trucking, but also rail transport in terms of a cost per mile price. It can do $0.85 per mile, with diesel only able to do around $1.25 per mile at today's gas prices.

Convoying involves using a lead car to provide guidance to following vehicles that can employ autonomous features to drive in close proximity, almost like unattached rail cars on a road instead of a track. Musk said that the Tesla Semi can successfully convoy today, using existing Tesla technology – though making it actually happen on real roads will require regulator approval as well as the tech piece.

Convoying could be a key ingredient in convincing shipping companies to adopt these in volume, since it might make the case that much more compelling in terms of cost benefits. Musk said that even without convoying using the Tesla Semi instead of a regular diesel truck was already more economical on a cost-per-mile basis, but being able to string these together in a highway-driven train formation would speak volumes to businesses looking for the bottom line benefit.

Musk said that Tesla has the ability to do this convoying and drive 10 times safer than a human driver can today, using its existing tech. Again, a lot will depend on regular comfort levels with this in terms of making it possible for use on roads, but it's a big potential selling point if that's the way lawmaking trends.