Torc, Daimler Enter Fourth Year of AV Collaboration

By Staff, FleetOwner

Daimler Truck AG subsidiary Torc Robotics and its parent company are entering the fourth year of their collaboration on commercializing long-haul autonomous trucks for the U.S. market.

Since Daimler Truck’s majority share investment in Torc in 2019, the two have worked to be the first to commercialize a profitable autonomous truck solution. Torc continues to operate as an independent subsidiary and serves as the lead between the two for autonomous driving system development, innovation, and fleet testing out of its Blacksburg, Virginia, headquarters.

“Bringing a safe Level 4 autonomous truck to market is by no means a simple task,” Torc CEO Peter Vaughan Schmidt said. “Over the past three years, we have benefited from the strong collaboration with Daimler Truck, bringing us significantly closer to our goal of developing a highly optimized self-driving truck that will meet the fleets’ needs for cost, safety, and performance. The teamwork shown has been outstanding so far, and we’re entering our fourth year of partnership with a clear roadmap—focusing on one manufacturer and one initial use case in one geographic area.”

Torc Robotics occupies an increasingly crowded market space for autonomous research and development that also includes TuSimple, Embark, Kodiak Robotics, Waymo, Gatik, Peloton, and Locomation.

Torc launched two new facilities this year, the first in January in Austin, Texas, a 21,000 square-foot engineering-focused product development center. Torc chose Austin because of the city’s commitment to innovation and talent pool that is driving technology development and product growth.

In April, Torc opened a 30,000-square-foot technology center in Stuttgart, Germany. Torc Europe GmbH taps into talent in one of Germany’s prime automotive development regions. The Stuttgart team supports the development of SAE Level 4 virtual driver for deployment in autonomous trucks in the U.S. The virtual driver is made up of the software and computing components for the AV driving system.

Since last year, Torc doubled its headcount to more than 600 and hired seven executives with wide experience in emerging technologies and transportation. The company also brought on board a new CEO, Schmidt, who is the former head of Daimler’s Autonomous Technology Group. Torc founder and former CEO Michael Fleming is remaining on Torc’s board of directors.

In late March, the company announced the launch of the Torc Autonomous Advisory Council (TAAC) to gain insights from trucking industry stakeholders and address requirements for integrating autonomous technology into the freight network. TAAC and Torc leaders are meeting quarterly throughout the year in addition to independently collaborating on critical areas such as integrating autonomous trucks with current freight operations and regulatory challenges in the U.S.

Torc and Schneider recently announced that the trucking company, which is No. 11 on the FleetOwner 500: Top For-Hire Fleets of 2022, will serve as a partner for Torc’s autonomous test fleet. Schneider will lend freight loads for Torc’s pilot operations and insights on truckload freight that will help guide the development and ongoing commercialization of long-haul autonomous trucks.

In preparation for a full hub-to-hub experience, Torc further developed its capabilities for highways, including complex merges and lane-change maneuvers. Other proficiencies of Torc technology include autonomously detecting and reacting to traffic lights and navigating complex intersections. Torc also recently started running its vehicles with an updated sensor suite, computers, and additional integrations that further testing efficiency as the team scales its autonomous fleet.