Big Rigs Will Drive the Autonomous Vehicle Movement

Nikola Big Rig 2 II

There's been a lot of discussion lately about the partnerships between automakers and tech companies such as Google to produce self-driving vehicles and how that will impact our car- and truck-loving universe. We tend to think, like some of our colleagues, that this is a lot of worry over an issue that won't come to fruition for several decades.

What we think is more likely to happen is that only certain types of vehicles will adopt autonomous driving technologies; think Class 8 big rigs that transport goods across the country on interstates. Autonomous capabilities are likely to make these trucks safer and more efficient. Of course transport companies will want to save money, and the government will want to tightly regulate it, and that in itself will likely slow the progress of this movement.

Recently upstart transportation company Nikola Motor Co. entered the fray. With ambitions of being the next truck-stop-loving Tesla, Nikola is taking orders for the Nikola One, an electric big rig that uses lithium-ion batteries and that does not need charging. Nikola is hoping to leverage existing self-driving technology to improve fuel efficiency of the Class 8 work-truck segment. The bullet-train-looking concept vehicle is made from composites, aluminum and high-strength steel to save weight and is reported to produce as much as 2,000 horsepower with its batteries, which are charged by a fuel-agnostic turbine generator. They're even promoting a unique six-wheel drivetrain with torque vectoring, meaning both left or right wheels can accelerate during cornering or acceleration to minimize under- and over-steer.  

As futuristic as something like might seem, those who place an order for it will receive free fuel for the first 1,000,000,000 miles of driving (likely limited to the first 5,000 units sold).

Once self-driving technology is totally embraced by the transport sector, we expect that technology will trickle down to commercial chassis cabs and then to daily-driver vehicles. But that's at least 30 to 50 years out and probably something we don't have to worry too much about right now.

But a one-ton pickup truck that looks like this would be cool.

For more information about autonomous vehicles, click here.

Manufacturer images


Nikola Big Rig II

Nikola Big Rig 3 II

Nikola Big Rig 4 II

Nikola Big Rig 5 II



Autonomous vehicles are unlawful , not just illegal.
The government can't usurp the public way, and give it to its crony friends.

Clearly a aerodynamic shape and a deflector just under the bumper that prevents air getting underneath the unit. This design would save a lot of fuel over its lifetime.

Autonomous vehicles can run 24 hours a day, stopping only for fuel and maintenance. And stopping to on load and off load freight.

This is topic, I'd like to read more about on PUT sites. Future projects. I read about it yesterday at TFL, but later is better than never PUT. Try to bring more than commercials or recalls and you might get different, better audience.

Google is using Austin as a test city with numerous Lexis SUV's running around with gear stuck on the roof and corners. One had the first ever autonomous accident on the Drag near UT. It hit the rear vehicle of a tandem bus thinking it was a single bus that it could pull behind. Nobody was hurt.
The spokesman said there are so many situations to feed into the computers, there is no way to cover all of them.
Looks like Austin drivers will be getting the bugs out or there will be a certain percentage of acceptable fail ratio?

A self driving semi with a passenger seat and a sleeper.


@Mark Williams
Fully Autonmous extremely unlikely, but in Europe they are using semi Autonmous trucks for " platooning" experiements. Saves a lot of fuel
US website on European ( Scania) platooning

UK article on the Research

Autonomous vehicles can run 24 hours a day, stopping only for fuel and maintenance. And stopping to on load and off load freight.
Posted by: GMSRGREAT | May

So all the truckers will be out of work then,,great idea..not

At Dr. Power. I share the same concerns as you. Where are all the TV and electronic repair jobs gone? What about the video rental store jobs, etc. There are hundreds of types of jobs that have succumb to technology. At some point it may become a moral issue. I'm a auto technician and I can see the need for that type of career being significantly reduced in the not to distant future.

First, it isn't at all an electric vehicle- its a series hybrid that uses a turbine instead of a 4-stroke diesel. The efficiency advantages over the latest diesels is not drastic. Turbines are durable enough, but they don't like dirt. Emissions controls is another- There are not currently standards for road going turbines. Put it this way- if turbines were viable for series drive road propulsion, The big guys would have them. Supporting the darn thing will be the real problem- You buy a Freighliner, Pacar, Volvo or International, you can get it fixed ANYWHERE in the country, many places around the clock.

"We predict long-haul Class 8 carriers will be the first vehicles likely to become autonomous on U.S. roads."


Papajim predicts that more freight will travel on rails in the future, especially long haul loads. Expect to see Washington DC slam the rail transport firms with Sherman Anti-Trust suits in the near future and trigger an explosion in new rail companies to serve the freight market.

Why do I say this? Because Berkshire-Hathaway has been amassing a giant portfolio of trains and transport stocks and when Warren Buffett talks with his checkbook, people listen.

What's the point of even having a driver if it's autonomous? I'd like to see how it handles a big rig going downhill on black ice and snow falling.

The comments to this entry are closed.