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.

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Former President Bill Clinton on Sunday called Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) vow to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg's vacant Supreme Court seat before the next presidential inauguration "superficially hypocritical."

The big picture: Clinton, who nominated Ginsburg to the court in 1993, declined to say whether he thinks Democrats should respond by adding more justices if they take back the Senate and the White House in November. Instead, he called on Republicans to "remember the example Abraham Lincoln set" by not confirming a justice in an election year.

Pelosi: Trump wants to "crush" ACA with Ginsburg replacement

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday that President Trump is rushing to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg because he "wants to crush the Affordable Care Act."

Why it matters: Pelosi wants to steer the conversation around the potential Ginsburg replacement to health care, which polls show is a top issue for voters, especially amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Trump administration has urged the courts to strike down the law, and with it, protections for millions with pre-existing conditions.

Mike Allen, author of AM
Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Democrats' Armageddon option

A makeshift memorial outside the Supreme Court yesterday. Photo: Jose Luis Magana/AFP via Getty Images

Furious Democrats are considering total war — profound changes to two branches of government, and even adding stars to the flag — if Republicans jam through a Supreme Court nominee, then lose control of the Senate.

On the table: Adding Supreme Court justices ... eliminating the Senate's 60-vote threshold to end filibusters ... and statehood for D.C. and Puerto Rico. "If he holds a vote in 2020, we pack the court in 2021," Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.) tweeted.