That’s still an obvious sore spot for the trucking industry. Union reps managed to exempt long-haul rigs from legislation currently being drafted by the U.S. Congress, over fears that automated driving could eat away at the headcount of drivers quicker than anyone expects.

But it’s expected to take many years for the technology to improve enough to a point where drivers can be completely removed from the equation. A demonstration from Uber’s self-driving truck program showed how drivers will be utilized early on: more so as operators than drivers themselves. The truck will handle highway commuting; the driver will handle exits and more localized streets.

At the very least, this thing looks neat.

Spy shots captured the vehicle sitting on a flatbed at an undisclosed location in California last month. It looks more aerodynamic than what’s on the road today.


Musk has promised the truck’s going to have massive torque, and it’s a clear-cut selling point to boost the vehicle’s quick acceleration compared to diesel counterparts.


Does The Industry Even Want To Be Electrified?

If Tesla introduces a truck that has a range of anywhere between 300 to 450 miles, that can cover half the semi-truck market, according to Toni Sacconaghi, a Bernstein analyst cited by Reuters this week.


Even still, a shorter range could be attractive, as explained this week:

California and New York are big boosters of transitioning regional freight hauling and port truck traffic from fossil fuels to green technology.

The annual market for short-range, heavy-duty electric trucks in the U.S. will hit 15,000 units by 2025, Walter Rentzsch, a Michigan-based trucking industry analyst with consulting firm Roland Berger, told

Those sales will all be in states, such as California, with heavy financial incentives that will help truck operators offset the higher purchase costs of electric models, Rentzsch said.

Rentzsch and colleague Stephan Keese said that a short-haul electric truck with about 100 miles of range and a five-ton, 600 kWh battery — a lesser truck than the Carnegie Mellon study envisioned — could earn payback for its price premium in three to five years if that premium were no more than $60,000 over the cost of a comparably equipped diesel model.


The company has copped to quality issues in the past with its expensive all-electric Model S and Model X models. So even though Musk is projecting a big vision for the truck, there’s a reasonable argument to be made that smaller routes make sense. Companies aren’t going to shell out significant cash to carry their haul across town, or the country, only to find their Tesla semi needs extensive service.

That leaves another question for Tesla to answer—if a customer buys this, how are they going to get it fixed? Are the mobile Tesla operators going to convert into semi repairpeople, too? Is this work going to be contracted out? That would seem to go against Tesla’s penchant for keeping things in-house, in an effort to build a vertically-integrated auto behemoth.


How To Watch

Tesla’s known to host lively parties to reveal new cars, so tonight shouldn’t be any exception—even as the company’s noticeably struggling to produce the Model 3 still ongoing. You have to wonder if an expensive, hulking piece of machine like a semi is going to be anything but a distraction for Tesla, as it tries to escape “production hell” and push out thousands of all-electric sedans.


Musk’s hyperbole aside (can your mind blow anything but clear out of your skull?), it’s going to be interesting to see how he delivers the presentation tonight. Back in July, at the Model 3 launch, he gave a rather rambling dialogue. And if a new Rolling Stone profile’s any indication, he hasn’t been in high spirits as of late.

If you’re interested in a late night viewing session, Tesla’s hosting a webcast to reveal the truck at 11 p.m. EDT. You can watch it at Tesla’s website.