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Daimler Takes Up Controlling Stake In Self Driving Tech Firm Torc Robotics

Daimler Takes Up Controlling Stake In Self Driving Tech Firm Torc Robotics
A majority stake in autonomous vehicle pioneer Torc Robotics would be taken up by Germany’s Daimler Trucks and would make use of the technology available with Torc to work on highly automated trucks aimed for the U.S. market.
The companies did not disclose the financial terms of the deal.
The plans of the truck manufacturer of developing commercial grade trucks that would be capable of Level 4 self-driving would be boosted by the deal, Daimler Truck said. Level 4 self-driving is a technology stage in autonomous driving when vehicles can travel all by themselves without any input from a driver or any form of backup assistance.
It has been about a decade now that self-driving systems for a range of vehicles from passenger cars to transit shuttles and heavy off-road equipment have the area that Torc have been working on. The company had been founded in 2005 by a group of engineering students from Virginia Tech.
“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,” Martin Daum, head of Daimler’s global truck and bus division, said in a statement. “Together, we will provide a sustainable way for our customers to meet the ever-growing freight demand and benefit both the economy and society.”
It was about three months ago that the truck manufacturer’s ambitions to bring to the market a Level 4 automated driving vehicle within the next 10 years was outlined by Daum.
The current development teams at Daimler Trucks especially in North America, would co-ordinate and work together with the experts from Torc’s automated vehicle section. Freightliner and Western Star trucks and Detroit engines and components are manufactured by Daimler Trucks in the region.
Daimler Trucks North America CEO Roger Nielsen said in an interview with Transport Topics that the partnership with Torc “gives us a chance to make a great leap forward”.
Nielsen described as being “intriguing” the expertise and experience of Torc with respect to completely unmanned vehicles in off-road applications such as mining. He however said that the focus of Daimler in the short term would be on the development of technology for Level 4 automated trucks with a driver on board.
He said that the trucking and logistics industry would move closer to making accident-free driving a reality by these self-driving trucks because it would reduce driver stress and fatigue and increase fleet efficiency.
“Anything we can do to keep a truck safe with a driver in it gets us further down the road to being able to keep the truck safe and the public safe without a driver in it,” Nielsen said.
With increase in freight demand, a strong business case for self-driving trucks in the United States is seen by Torc CEO Michael Fleming. The natural first target for Level 4 automated trucking would be the hub-to-hub operations on open highways, he identified.
“We expect that the automated truck will be able to drive itself safely across the road, and if it ever comes into a situation where it doesn’t know what to do, it can bring itself safely to a stop and then give the driver time to get the truck out of trouble,” Fleming said.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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