Daimler acquires majority stake in autonomous driving provider Torc
Auto giant Daimler AG today announced it’s teaming up with Torc Robotics Inc., an early pioneer of autonomous vehicle technology, to develop self-driving trucks for the U.S. market.
The company has acquired an unspecified majority stake in Torc as part of the partnership. The dollar value of the investment is not being disclosed.
Blacksburg, Virginia-based Torc has been developing systems for self-driving vehicles since 2005, four years before Alphabet Inc. started work on the internal project that would eventually become Waymo LLC. The company’s flagship product is a software platform called Asimov that’s touted as capable of providing Level 4 autonomy.
Level 4 autonomy is the second-highest rung in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s classification system for self-driving vehicles. Cars and other machines in this category can operate without any human input whatsoever, but only under optimal driving conditions or inside limited geographic areas. Torc designed its Asimov platform with the goal of making Level 4 capabilities available for a wide range of different vehicles.
The company over the past 14 years has deployed the software in consumer SUVs, military systems and even a 300-ton mining truck. It’s also working with French bus manufacturer Transdev SA to install Asimov in a new series of self-driving shuttles.
Asimo’s compatibility with large vehicles, plus the fact that it has been tested on a variety of different chassis types, was no doubt a major factor behind Daimler’s decision to invest in Torc. The German automaker is the world’s largest truck manufacturer by unit sales and is actively working to bring more autonomous steering capabilities into its portfolio.
Currently, Daimler only provides a Level 2 autonomy system for its trucks that can steer, accelerate and brake on their own but only under a narrow set of conditions. The investment in Torc should speed up the automaker’s development efforts on this front, as well as give it access to valuable technical know-how that could also be useful for other projects.
“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 U.S. market and I believe the fastest path to commercialization for self-driving trucks is in partnership with Daimler Trucks, the OEM market leader,” Torc Chief Executive Michael Fleming (pictured, right, next to Daimler Trucks head Roger Nielsen) said in a statement.
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