A strong partner for automated trucks

Daimler Trucks acquires a majority stake of Torc Robotics, a U.S. software company specializing in automated driving. This creates a technology powerhouse for automated trucks – and is a major milestone on our way to launch highly automated trucks within a decade.

Today is a very special day for us at Daimler Trucks. It’s a day that we have been very much looking forward to. Because the investment we’re announcing today will make a real difference. It will make a difference for Daimler Trucks and for our new partner Torc Robotics. And it will also make a difference for our customers, as well as for our economies and our societies. This is a bold statement. But I’m convinced it’s no overstatement – because the power of automated driving is just amazing.

Ready for series-production

And that’s not something we’ve just recently figured out. On the contrary, we recognized early on the tremendous potential of this technology – for more safety in road freight transport, as well as for greater efficiency and sustainability. Global transport volumes are expected to more than double between 2015 and 2050 – and automated driving is an important lever to manage this increase in an economically and socially meaningful way.

That’s why we’ve been pressing ahead on automated driving for trucks for years. In 2014 we introduced our vision of an autonomous truck to the world for the first time in the form of our Mercedes-Benz Future Truck. In 2015 we gained the world’s first official approval for a street-legal partially automated truck with our Freightliner Inspiration Truck in the U.S.

Now we are ready to go into series-production with partially automated driving trucks – in other words at automated level 2 driving – in all regions around the world: in Europe with our new Mercedes-Benz Actros, in USA with our new Freightliner Cascadia, and in Japan with the heavy-duty trucks of our FUSO brand.

Level 4 trucks – a big leap in technology

We have already achieved a lot with this technology. Still, semi-automated driving is just an intermediate goal for us. At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January we already made our next goal public: Within a decade we aim to put highly automated trucks – level 4 trucks – into volume production and on the road.

That’s going to be a big leap in technology. Because in the case of semi-automated level 2 driving the responsibility still lies with the driver, whereas in highly-automated level 4 driving the system itself takes over responsibility. A single number gives you an idea of how complex this technology is: A system for semi-automated driving needs two technically highly sophisticated sensors based on radar and camera – in highly automated driving, there are a few dozen, including additional sensors based on the laser technology Lidar.

In order to gain experience as quickly as possible we will gradually introduce highly automated driving and radically simplify its use. We’ll start in the U.S. with routes between logistics hubs along major highways.

A pioneer in automated driving

That’s exactly what we’ll be working on with our new partner. We’re acquiring a majority of the shares of US-based Torc Robotics, based in Blacksburg, Virginia. Founded in 2005, Torc Robotics is one of the pioneers in automated driving and, more importantly, one of the world’s leading names in this field: Torc Robotics has now tested automated vehicles in more than 20 U.S. states on public roads, as well as in restricted areas – and with no accidents. Included in that testing was a coast-to-coast trip across the United States and along the route were some cities with busy traffic such as Las Vegas.

We’re now joining forces with Torc Robotics because we believe our strengths complement each other perfectly. Torc Robotics is a leader in automated driving – and Daimler Trucks is leading in trucks. We understand the unique needs of our industry, and we have the global footprint and global platforms required to quickly roll out new technologies across all regions.

More specifically, that means: The Torc team will work closely with Daimler Trucks development teams, particularly the Research & Development efforts of Daimler Trucks North America in Portland, Oregon. Torc will continue to develop its self-driving software and testing at its Blacksburg, Virginia facility. At the same time, Daimler Trucks will focus on further evolving automated driving technology and vehicle integration for heavy-duty trucks.

In sum, 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 with Torc Robotics, we can now achieve even more in automated driving even faster – for the benefit of our customers, the economy and society. Therefore I am very pleased about this new partnership. Together we want to shape the future of transportation!

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Martin Daum is a member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and the Head of Daimler Trucks & Buses.