September 2020 marks one year of Daimler Trucks and Torc Robotics partnering as a team after the US based automated driving technology company became part of Daimler Trucks’ Autonomous Technology Group. (Earlier post.)
Now, the Autonomous Technology Group will extend its testing to New Mexico by building up a new testing center in Albuquerque. Expanding to a new location will support testing and provide data for more use cases of next generation vehicles on public roads starting this fall.
The partnership is collaboratively pursuing a goal of bringing series-produced highly automated trucks (SAE Level 4) to the roads within the decade; including on-road deployment of a Level 4 test fleet, initiation of redesign of truck chassis, adoption of a hub-to-hub model, formalized rigorous testing protocols, formal truck safety driver certification process, and extended software capabilities.
Daimler Trucks and Torc started their collaboration in spring 2019. Initial public road testing on highways began in September in southwest Virginia, where Torc is headquartered. Additionally, closed-track road testing is conducted in Madras, OR, at Daimler Trucks North America’s High Desert Proving Grounds. In February 2020, Daimler Trucks and Torc announced plans to expand testing of automated truck technology to additional locations, adding new public routes in the US, but the activation was postponed due to COVID-19 pandemic.
During the pandemic downtime, the teams continued testing by focusing on robust simulation testing. Public road testing with safety and health protocols in place resumed in Virginia in June 2020 and will be continued with the next generation of automated driving software. The team in Oregon, will continue focusing on the development of vehicle safety systems, which are critical for delivering the safety standards for self-driving trucks today and in the future. The goal is to refine a truck chassis that is perfectly suited for highly automated driving and includes the redundancy of systems needed to achieve safe, reliable driving.
After one year of collaboration with Torc, we have successfully deployed trucks with SAE Level 4 intent technology on public roads and expanded our test fleet with trucks, miles and learnings. Partnering with Torc has created a unique and even more powerful team of innovators at Daimler Trucks. We remain fully committed to this collaboration and to focusing on the shared goal of bringing highly automated trucks to series production.—Martin Daum, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler Truck AG and Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG
Daimler Trucks has dozens of years of experience in testing and validating the durability, reliability and safety of commercial vehicles around the world. In 2019, Daimler Trucks North America, the North America market share leader, unveiled the first SAE Level 2 automated truck, the Freightliner Cascadia. With Active Drive Assist (Mercedes-Benz Actros, FUSO Super Great) and Detroit Assurance 5.0 with Active Lane Assist (Freightliner Cascadia), Daimler Trucks has delivered automated driving features into series production.
Similarly, Torc has 15 years of experience in commercializing self-driving technology in heavy-duty, safety-critical applications. Moreover, Torc’s “Asimov” autonomous driving system has been tested on public roads including a cross-country journey. As a result of combining their extensive technology and testing experience, Daimler Trucks and Torc have developed a comprehensive validation approach and safety protocols for automated driving; aligned with the federal framework policy for testing and commercial deployment of SAE Level 4 automated trucks.
All automated test drives require the combination of a safety conductor, overseeing the system, and a highly trained safety driver, certified by Daimler Trucks and Torc. All safety drivers hold commercial driver’s licenses and are specially trained in vehicle dynamics and automated systems.
According to the US Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the tonnage of goods shipped by trucks in the US increased by 56% in the past decade. This number is expected to nearly double in the next two and a half decades. These developments contribute to a growing need for safe, reliable, cost-effective trucking solutions.
Based in Blacksburg, Virginia, Torc became part of the Autonomous Technology Group in August 2019, following Daimler Trucks’ investment in the company.