(Blacksburg, Va.) Torc Robotics and Daimler Trucks have released a video showing footage of their testing of self-driving trucks on a closed-course on Virginia’s Smart Road and along highways in the Blacksburg, Virginia area, including I-81. Scenes include driving in varying weather conditions, up steep grades, and along construction zones.
The video was released in celebration of one year of accomplishments by the partnership and to announce expanded testing in New Mexico. Torc has been testing Freightliner trucks, equipped with Torc’s self-driving vehicle system, on public highways in Virginia since last September.
Virginia is an ideal testing location for Torc Robotics, which has tested numerous vehicle platforms on public roads for 14 years. “Virginia’s highways provide a combination of steep grades, varying traffic types, and weather that has allowed us to expand and test our capabilities,” said Torc CEO Michael Fleming. “Torc will continue to test in Virginia, as our headquarters location provides an ideal area for our development team.” Last month, Virginia’s Governor Ralph Northam announced Torc’s plans to significantly expand the product development team in Virginia.
All automated runs require both a safety conductor and a highly trained safety driver certified by Daimler Trucks and Torc Robotics. All safety drivers hold a commercial driver’s license and are specially trained in vehicle dynamics and automated systems.
Due to the pandemic, Torc halted daily on-road testing in March, but was able to resume in June, following stringent safety protocols to help protect its team. Although all automated runs require both a safety driver and safety conductor to be in the cab together, physical separation measures and additional cleaning protocols have been put in place.
During the months that Torc and Daimler Trucks paused their daily on-road testing, the partners concentrated on scalability, improving infrastructure tools and the simulation platform, and extending the software capabilities. “Instead of daily on-road testing, we strengthened our foundation, which has catapulted our abilities,” said Torc CEO, Michael Fleming. Trucks equipped with the next-generation system begin testing this fall.
Earlier this month, Torc and Daimler Trucks North America announced an expansion of their on-road testing. In addition to ongoing on-road testing in Virginia, the team is now testing in New Mexico and Torc is establishing a testing center in Albuquerque.
Daimler Trucks and Torc are committed to commercializing self-driving trucks within the decade. Both companies, however, have stated that safety determines the timeline.