BLACKSBURG/STUTTGART/PORTLAND— Daimler Trucks, a division in the Daimler Group, the inventor of the truck and world’s largest manufacturer of heavy and medium trucks, and Torc Robotics, a pioneer in autonomous driving solutions, are joining forces in a one-of-a-kind combination to commercialize highly automated trucks (SAE Level 4) on U.S. roads. Going beyond an OEM/supplier relationship, the companies signed an agreement today for Daimler AG’s subsidiary Daimler Trucks and Buses Holding Inc., to acquire a majority stake in Torc Robotics for an undisclosed sum. Closing of the acquisition is subject to approval from U.S. authorities.
Michael Fleming, CEO of Torc Robotics, Martin Daum, Member of the Board of Management Daimler AG, responsible for Trucks and Buses, and Roger Nielsen, CEO of Daimler Trucks North America LLC, announced the strategic move today at Torc headquarters in Blacksburg, Virginia.
“With the ever rising demand for road transportation, not the least through e-commerce, there is a strong business case for self-driving trucks in the U.S. market and I believe the fastest path to commercialization for self-driving trucks is in partnership with Daimler Trucks, the OEM market leader. This move is in line with our mission of saving lives and represents another major milestone for Torc since crossing the finish line in the DARPA Urban Challenge 12 years ago,” said Michael Fleming, CEO of Torc.
“Bringing Torc Robotics within the Daimler Trucks family creates a unique and powerful team of innovators to put highly automated trucks on the road. Daimler Trucks and Torc Robotics complement each other perfectly in terms of resources, expertise, and skill sets. We are forming the ideal combination between Torc’s expertise on agile software development and our experience in delivering reliable and safe truck hardware,” said Martin Daum, Member of the Board of Management Daimler AG, responsible for Trucks and Buses. “Together, we will provide a sustainable way for our customers to meet the ever-growing freight demand and benefit both the economy and society,” he said.
“Torc is not a start-up, but one of the world’s most experienced companies for vehicle automation. Torc takes a practical approach to commercialization and offers advanced, road-ready technology, plus years of experience in heavy vehicles. Torc’s Level 4 system has been shown to operate well for both urban and highway driving in rain, snow, fog, and sunshine,” said Roger Nielsen, CEO of Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA), which includes the market-leading Freightliner brand.
As part of the overall agreements, the Torc team will work closely with Daimler Trucks’ developers, particularly with the Research & Development team of Daimler Trucks North America in Portland, Oregon. Torc will continue to develop its Asimov self-driving software and testing at its Blacksburg facility. At the same time, DTNA will focus on further evolving automated driving technology and vehicle integration for heavy-duty trucks at its Automated Truck Research & Development Center in Portland. The DTNA team is working on a truck chassis perfectly suited for automated driving, particularly the redundancy of systems needed to provide the maximum level of reliability and safety.
Under the agreement, Torc will remain a separate entity retaining its name, team, existing customers, and facilities in Blacksburg. The partnership with Daimler Trucks will enable Torc to expand significantly its team, engage into the trucking market and service its growing customer base in other markets.
Continued strong collaboration with Mercedes-Benz Cars
In addition to the partnership with Torc, Daimler Trucks will continue to work very closely across the Daimler Group for maximum synergies regarding automated vehicle technology. Specifically, Daimler Trucks is drawing on the activities and experiences of Mercedes-Benz Cars regarding sensor technology and operational aspects of vehicle automation.
Daimler Trucks pioneer of automated trucks
Daimler Trucks is the pioneer of truck automation. Its global business includes not only Daimler AG in Germany, but other companies worldwide, including Daimler Trucks North America LLC in the U.S. In 2014, the world’s leading truck manufacturer presented the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025, the world’s first automated truck, and was the first to demonstrate the technological opportunities and great potential that automated trucks offer the economy and society.
In 2015, Daimler’s Freightliner Inspiration Truck obtained the first-ever road license for a partially automated commercial vehicle and the world premiere of the Mercedes-Benz Actros with Highway Pilot took place on public roads.
Level 2 automated driving now a reality at Daimler Trucks
With Active Drive Assist (Mercedes-Benz Actros, FUSO Super Great) and Detroit Assurance 5.0 with Active Lane Assist (Freightliner Cascadia), Daimler Trucks is the first to bring partially automated driving features (SAE level 2) into series production. The new system can independently brake, accelerate and steer. Unlike systems that only work above a certain speed, Active Drive Assist / Detroit Assurance 5.0 make partially automated driving possible in all speed ranges for the driver, also another first in a series production truck. This revolutionary active lateral and longitudinal assistance package is powered by a new state-of-the art radar and camera fusion system.
About Torc Robotics
Torc Robotics, headquartered in Blacksburg, Virginia, offers a complete autonomous software solution for mobility applications including self-driving cars and transit vehicles by working with partners in automotive, transit and technology. Torc also provides self-driving technology in safety-critical applications, including 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. The company employs around 100 people.
Torc has tested its on-road and traffic capabilities in demo self-driving cars that 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’s inclement weather capabilities were featured at CES 2019.
Torc believes that successful commercialization of self-driving technology is best accomplished through close partnerships. Announced partnerships include Caterpillar, with mining and agriculture applications, and AAA Northern California Nevada & Utah for developing safety criteria through testing on public streets and closed courses. In January, Torc and Transdev announced a partnership integrating Level 4 self-driving technology in an i-Cristal shuttle, that is currently undergoing route testing in France and scheduled for commercial operation this year.