Torc and AAA Northern California, Nevada & Utah run self-driving car through hazardous traffic scenarios

BLACKSBURG, VA – Torc Robotics and AAA Northern California, Nevada & Utah have pitted Torc’s self-driving system against some of the most unpredictable traffic hazards in their effort to develop and evaluate safety criteria for self-driving vehicles.

During two weeks in November, the partners challenged Torc’s Asimov self-driving system in scenarios that included pedestrians, cyclists, and animals in a safe, controlled environment at Ohio’s Transportation Research Center (TRC). The scenarios simulated the complexity of actual driving situations, such as driving at night, handling complex intersections that include pedestrians or debris, and maneuvering around multiple vehicles on the road.

The challenges were designed using robotic pedestrians, animals, and dummy vehicles. The data is being studied from multiple perspectives to understand how to evaluate self-driving vehicles and how to determine safety metrics.

“The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports human error is a contributing factor in 94 percent of crashes. We see the potential to nearly eliminate traffic accidents by leveraging self-driving vehicles, but only if they are deployed in a safe way,” says Tim Condon, President & CEO of AAA Northern California, Nevada & Utah, who also oversees operations for AAA in Alaska, Arizona, Montana and Wyoming. “By developing a safety assessment for self-driving vehicles and testing them before they are deployed on public roads, we can help technology providers to focus on delivering safety and building the public’s confidence in this new technology.”

The biggest question for commercializing self-driving vehicles on public roads is when will they be safe enough and what safe enough looks like, according to Torc CEO Michael Fleming. “Torc’s mission is to save lives through the commercialization of our Asimov self-driving software stack.”

Asimov driving at night.
Asimov driving at night.

The ultimate goal of AAA Northern California, Nevada & Utah is to provide an unbiased, independent assessmentof self-driving vehicles and to help manufacturers improve safety before public deployment. AAA Northern California, Nevada & Utah is seeking additional partners in the industry willing to collaborate to achieve this goal.

In addition to its partnership with AAA Northern California, Nevada & Utah, Torc will use the data from the Ohio challenges to push its system capabilities and to seek challenging corner cases as part of its ongoing commitment to develop the safest system for the road. “Since our 2005 founding in the DARPA Challenges, Torc has been stress testing our self-driving software stack in some of the most challenging environments in the world,” Fleming says. “Disruptive technologies are not invented in short order and we are positioned to disrupt the mobility space.”

Torc has converted more than 100 vehicle platforms to autonomous or teleoperation for real-world testing and use. The company’s self-driving vehicle technology has successfully navigated heavy urban traffic, aggressive tailgating, heavy rains, snow and highway detours. The company is commercializing self-driving car technology with automotive, transit, and technology partners in multiple countries.

About Torc Robotics

Torc Robotics, headquartered in Blacksburg, Virginia, offers a complete autonomous software solution for mobility applications like self-driving cars and transit – working partners in automotive, transit, and technology. Torc also provides self-driving technology in safety-critical environments like defense, mining, and agriculture. Founded in 2005, Torc has integrated its self-driving solutions on ground vehicles ranging from SUVs to 300-ton mining trucks. Torc’s self-driving demo cars, nicknamed Asimov, successfully logged robotic testing in more than 20 states while operating on both public roads and closed courses with zero accidents. The testing included a coast-to-coast trip across the United States and extensive driving in densely-packed streets such as those located in Las Vegas, Nevada. Torc recently announced a new demo platform with commercially viable components implemented on a Chrysler Pacifica.

About AAA Northern California, Nevada & Utah

AAA Northern California, Nevada & Utah offers a wide array of automotive and DMV services, and discounts to almost 6 million members. For more than 100 years, AAA Northern California, Nevada & Utah has been dedicated to saving lives on the road by focusing on traffic safety. As the mobility landscape evolves, it works to ensure self-driving vehicle safety and build consumer confidence by partnering with Keolis and the City of Las Vegas to launch the nation’s first public self-driving shuttle in downtown Las Vegas. It also just assumed management and operation of GoMentum Station, one of the largest testing facilities for self-driving vehicles in the U.S., with the ultimate goal of developing it into a premier Autonomous Vehicle testing facility for industries, academia, cities, and transportation agencies; and revolutionizing mobility for the next hundred years.

About Transportation Research Center

Transportation Research Center Inc. (TRC Inc.) has provided turnkey testing solutions to the automotive industry for over 40 years, and continues to provide 24/7, comprehensive services for passive and active safety, efficiency, durability and performance, at their home site in East Liberty, Ohio. Through our history of working hand-in-hand with OEMs, Suppliers and Technology Companies, TRC Inc. has kept pace with technological advancements in the automotive industry, through the development and deployment of Airbags and Electronic Stability Control, and is excited to apply this depth of experience to the next great revolution in mobility. TRC Inc. continues this history by providing tailored solutions for the evaluation and validation of Automated Driving Systems.