Autonomous Trucks Being Tested on the Open Road

Daimler Trucks acquires Torc Robotics, begins testing automated trucks on public roads.

Considering there are approximately 276 million vehicles operating in the U.S., around 15.5 million of which are trucks, safely more than 10 billion tons of freight continues to be a priority. Daimler Trucks North America, which recently acquired Torc Robotics, has focused efforts on developing and testing automated trucks.

The new fleet of SAE Level 4 intent technology has begun its decent on public roads after extensive safety validation on a closed-loop track.

“As we pair Daimler’s expertise in building safe and reliable trucks with Torc’s genius in engineering Level 4 vehicles, we have no doubt we will do great things in the future,” said Roger Nielsen, president and CEO of Daimler Trucks North America. “We look forward to writing history together. The U.S. highways are the perfect place to develop automated driving technology.”

Automated trucks are hitting the road for testing after extensive safety and performance testing. (Image courtesy of Torc Robotics.)

Automated trucks are hitting the road for testing after extensive safety and performance testing. (Image courtesy of Torc Robotics.)

Current routes are located on highways in Blacksburg, Va., where Torc Robotics is located. Each run involves an engineer to oversee the system and a certified commercial driver who has been trained on automated systems.

“Being part of Daimler Trucks is the start of a new chapter for Torc,” said Michael Fleming, Torc Robotics CEO. “Our whole team is thrilled to be working alongside our Daimler colleagues as we pursue the commercialization of Level 4 trucks to bring this technology to the market because we strongly believe it can save lives.”

Daimler is also expanding automated efforts at its Portland and Stuttgart, Germany, locations. The North American team continues to develop truck chassis that can accommodate automated driving, which requires redundant systems to ensure safety and reliability. Bringing Torc in provides the truck manufacturer with automation expertise. Torc’s systems have proven reliable in cities, long-distance travel and in a plethora of weather conditions.  

Along with developing the actually vehicles, Daimler’s newly created Autonomous Technology Group is busy working on an infrastructure for the operational testing of initial application cases, which includes a main control center and logistics hubs located near highways, interstates and high-density freight corridors. The internal department will also focus on software development, sensor kit integration and autonomous roadmaps.

Interested in learning more about how the trucking industry is changing? Check out Vision and Practice at Volvo Group GTO: Industry 4.0 and PLM in Global Truck Manufacturing.