Daimler Trucks, a 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 US roads, the two companies said.
Going beyond a traditional OEM/supplier relationship, Daimler and Torc recently signed an agreement for Daimler AG’s subsidiary, Daimler Trucks and Buses Holding, to acquire a majority stake in Torc Robotics for an undisclosed sum.
Closing of the acquisition is subject to approval from US authorities.
Michael Fleming, CEO of Torc Robotics, Martin Daum, a member of Daimler AG’s management board who’s responsible for trucks and buses, and Roger Nielsen, CEO of Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA), announced the strategic move at Torc headquarters in Blacksburg VA.
“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 US market and I believe the fastest path to commercialization for self-driving trucks is in partnership with Daimler Trucks, the OEM market leader,” Fleming said.
“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.”
Added Daum: “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.
“Together, we will provide a sustainable way for our customers to meet the ever-growing freight demand and benefit both the economy and society.”
As part of the overall agreements, the Torc team will work closely with Daimler Trucks developers, particularly with the research and development team of DTNA in Portland OR, the companies said. Torc will continue to develop its Asimov self-driving software and testing at its Blacksburg facility.
At the same time, DTNA will focus on evolving automated driving technology and vehicle integration for heavy-duty trucks at its automated truck research and development center in Portland. The DTNA team is working on a truck chassis suited for automated driving, DTNA said, 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 will enable Torc to expand significantly its team, and to engage in the trucking market and service its growing customer base in other markets.
“Torc is not a start-up, but one of the world’s most experienced companies for vehicle automation,” Nielsen said. “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.”