As the world’s largest truck manufacturer, Daimler is reluctant to leave behind in the era of autonomous driving.
Recently, Daimler bought a majority stake in Torc Robotics in order to accelerate the deployment of semi-automobile commercial trucks and promote the development of Level 4 self-driving trucks.
Regarding the details of the deal, Daimler did not want to disclose too much, so the share of equity and the transaction amount is still a mystery. If all goes well, this equity acquisition will be completed after approval by the US regulatory authorities.
Although the majority of the shares have been given to Daimler, the Torc Robotics, based in Blacksburg, Virginia, retains a high degree of independence and will continue to operate under the name Torc Robotics.
Torc Robotics co-founder and CEO Michael Fleming revealed that the Torc team is just over 100 people, and Torc will work with Daimler Truck North America R&D team (Portland R&D Center) in the future.
Now the Portland R&D Center is an important piece in Daimler’s North America. Software engineers work with engineers in Stuttgart and Bangalore to improve Daimler’s autonomous driving technology.
Although autonomous driving technology has only developed in recent years, the history of Torc can be traced back to 2005.
At the time, a group of Virginia Polytechnic engineering students designed and built three self-driving cars with the goal of winning the Autopilot Challenge, and the contest organizer was the DARPA paver. In the end, Fleming and the team won the eighth and ninth places, with a total of 195 teams participating.
Torc’s software and sensors have been targeted primarily at the commercial, industrial and military markets, and Torc has only recently turned its attention to the consumer market.
Martin Daum, a member of the Daimler Group’s board of directors, believes that this collaboration takes full advantage of both hardware and software expertise. He also revealed that the Torc system test will begin on the US highway, and that Daimler will use the truck to connect users’ main logistics hubs.
It is understood that Daimler Level 2 semi-self-driving trucks will be officially deployed later this year.
Although the driver is also responsible for supervising the safe execution of the vehicle, a series of auxiliary functions can greatly reduce the fatigue of the driving and improve the safety of the road. With the Level 4 autopilot system in the future, trucks can travel thousands of miles a day, driving in very few cases.
Daum said that in addition to developing an automated driving system for trucks, Daimler will also prepare similar products for passenger cars. Don’t forget that Daimler is the world’s largest luxury car manufacturer. However, Daum said that the two systems will have an important difference. “On the passenger car, we can make full use of the rear space of the vehicle to install a variety of sensors. Semi-trailer trucks can’t, we only have control of the trailer head,” Daum explained.
When asked when the Torc system could be commercialized in the US, Daum said that the prototype product might be deployed soon, but the mass production product might have to spend another two years.
Roger Nielsen, CEO of Daimler Trucks North America, said that the market for the autonomous driving system of Torc is quite broad due to the severe shortage of truck driving.
Earlier this year, Torc also licensed its self-developed Asimov autopilot software to Transdev, a French mobile travel service provider. The 16-seat shuttle bus will be on the streets of Paris and Lyon this year.
“In recent years, the e-commerce business has flourished and the demand for road transport has grown rapidly. Therefore, self-driving trucks have a lot to offer. I believe that the fastest way to commercialize self-driving trucks is to cooperate with Daimler, which is the leader in the auto market. The Fleming statement wrote. “Working with Daimler is in line with our life-saving creed, and this is another important milestone for the Torc racing team to cross the DARPA Challenge finish 12 years ago.”