Someone spotted a Tesla Semi on a public road, but what's it doing?

A prototype of a Tesla Semi was spotted driving on public roads in California. Musk unveiled the semi during an event on November 16. Transportation reporters Matthew Debord and Benjamin Zhang provide an update on the truck. Following is a transcript of the video.

Benjamin Zhang: So you may have seen this video of a Tesla Semi driving around California. We’re not exactly sure what it’s doing. But it’s real and you can see it in the flesh.

Matthew DeBord:I’m not sure what they’re doing either. I did see that video. I think, what’s going on is- I saw the truck when it was revealed in Los Angeles. And I think most of the trucks are being kept down their at Tesla’s design studio. Somehow one of them made it up to northern California and I think it’s just going back and forth between Tesla’s headquarters which is on Deer Creek in Silicon Valley and Fremont which is where their factory is on the east side of the San Francisco Bay.

Zhang: We know they can’t even build their Model 3 sedan, how the heck are they going to build the truck?

DeBord: That’s an excellent question. They have one factory, in Fremont, California which currently pretty well maxed out trying to build the Model 3 which is their new mass market vehicle. They hope to sell it for $US35,000 one of these days. And then their other two cars the Model S sedan and the Model X SUV was just their as well, and I don’t think they really have room to build a semi truck in there. So you look at the situation, and they’re supposed to be building a lot more Model 3’s at this point and they aren’t.

It’s a puzzling thing, why can’t Tesla, do a better job at its core -what should be its core competency- which is building stuff. They seem really good at, as you pointed out already, designing stuff, doing really dynamic and interesting reveals of the vehicles that they intend to produce. And then when it gets down to the nuts and bolts aspects which is bolting everything together and rolling it on the assembly line and getting it out to the customers they struggle. Folks are putting money down to buy this truck you know deposit the truck itself is going to be priced anywhere from $US150,000-$US200,000 I guess that general ballpark by the time they get around to actually building it.

Zhang: Why are people plopping down this much cash for a truck that they can’t have?

DeBord: Well, there have been some cynics out there who have said ‘oh yeah sure sure sure these big companies are plunking down their deposits to eventually get their semi their Tesla Semis. And isn’t just marketing? Isn’t this just a way for them to say hey we’re on with the green future, the sustainable future, we’re down with electric transportation. On the other hand you might be looking at the truck and saying well, it’s probably going to be- they’re going to operate it in a fleet context anyway that’s probably going to be cheaper to operate over the long haul then my diesel trucks are, if I have a central place where I can charge them up. It’s supposed to be a lot faster than a present-day diesel truck,

Tesla’s always distinguished themselves. You got to think about, how cool it is. Right if you get inside the cab of the truck it’s nothing like a traditional you know tractor-trailer big rig it’s nothing like that at all. It’s almost like the deck of a spaceship there are a couple big screens it’s all glass, the driver sits in the middle opposed to sitting off to the side. And they really kind of thought through self-driving aspects of the truck, the drivers’ comfort, the drivers’ safety, all kinds of things along those lines so I mean it looks like a pretty appealing product and it really doesn’t look anything like you know big rigs that are on the road right now.

Zhang: But to wrap this whole thing up, in the grand scheme of things where does the Tesla Semi exist, in sort of automotive history?

DeBord: Well nobody else is really is directly attacking this problem. Most of the big truck makers are going to stick- are sticking with the platforms they have got I mean they might be thinking about hybridizing the big diesels you know instead of making them full electric. Tesla’s going full electric and if they- if it is successful, it will be much more revolutionary and much more game-changing then doing the consumer autos.

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