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The image Tesla released on its invitation to tomorrow's unveil of its electric semi-truck prototype (Photo: Tesla)

In a move to capture a piece of one of the most promising sectors of robotization, entrepreneur Elon Musk plans tomorrow evening to unveil a Tesla semi-truck, a prototype electric with self-driving technology. According to one estimate, its enormous battery could make it double the price of a standard diesel-propelled vehicle. But Musk has said he already has customers waiting for the vehicle.

The jobs impact: There are about 3.5 million truckers in the U.S., in addition to about 5 million workers in other parts of the industry. Many of those jobs are threatened in a future of autonomous freight transportation.

Much is made of the future of self-driving, but the biggest early impact — with huge money on the line — is likely to be cargo trucks, and not passenger vehicles.

  • The U.S. trucking industry had $676 billion in revenue last year, according to the American Trucking Association, a sum that experts expect to surge over the coming decades with the global population boom to 9 billion people.
  • Numerous startups in Silicon Valley and elsewhere are hoping to capture that flow of revenue.

In a paper earlier this year, Shashank Sripad and Venkat Viswanathan of Carnegie Mellon University estimated that a lithium-ion battery that could take a truck 300 miles on a charge would weigh about seven tons and cost roughly $150,000. The price of a diesel semi-truck is about $120,000 to $130,000; while an electric drive train would lower the cost, you would be talking a total of about $250,000 for the electric self-driving truck.

A bigger battery, allowing a truck to go say 600 miles, would cost $300,000, too much to be cost-effective, they said.

A thought bubble: Musk may introduce a creative approach to the autonomous electric trucking future, such as leased batteries or battery swapping. But whatever he has to say and show us, he seems likely also to face more than his share of doubters. There is reason for that: He is arguably distracting himself from his core mission, which is to work out the bugs and reliably produce hundreds of thousands of his currently troubled mainstream Model 3 sedan per year.

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - World

U.S. releases report finding Saudi prince approved Khashoggi operation

Photo: Bandar Algaloud / Saudi Kingdom Council / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) has released an unclassified report assessing that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) approved the operation to "capture or kill" Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

Driving the news: The White House also announced sanctions on entities implicated in the murder, though not on MBS directly. Officials also announced a new "Khashoggi ban" under which individuals accused of harassing journalists or dissidents outside their borders can be barred from entering the U.S.

About 20% of U.S. adults have received first vaccine dose, White House says

Joe Biden speaks during an event commemorating the 50 million COVID-19 vaccine shots. Photo: Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images

Nearly 1 in 5 adults and nearly half of Americans 65 and older have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, White House senior adviser Andy Slavitt said on Friday.

The big picture: The Biden administration has previously said it has secured enough doses to vaccinate most of the American population by the end of July.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Most COVID-19 survivors can weather risk of reinfection, study says — "Twindemic" averted as flu reports plummet amid coronavirus crisis
  2. Vaccine: Employers mull COVID vaccine requirements — New data reignites the debate over coronavirus vaccine strategyPfizer begins study on 3rd vaccine dose as booster shot against new strains.
  3. Economy: What's really going on with the labor market.
  4. Local: All adult Minnesotans will likely be eligible for COVID-19 vaccine by summer — Another wealthy Florida community receives special access to COVID-19 vaccine.
  5. Sports: Poll weighs impact of athlete vaccination.