Daimler Trucks and Torc Robotics celebrate one year of successful collaboration – adding testing centre in New Mexico

In Freightliner, News, Daimler7 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineSeptember 4, 2020

September 2020 marks one year of Daimler Trucks and Torc Robotics partnering as a team after the US-based automated driving technology company became part of Daimler Trucks‘ Autonomous Technology Group. One year together, collaboratively pursuing a common goal of bringing series-produced highly automated trucks (SAE Level 4) to the roads within the decade; including on-road deployment of a Level 4 test fleet, initiation of redesign of truck chassis, adoption of a hub-to-hub model, formalised rigorous testing protocols, formal truck safety driver certification process, and extended software capabilities. Now, the Autonomous Technology Group will extend its testing to New Mexico by building up a new testing centre in Albuquerque. Expanding to a new location will support testing and provide data for more use cases of next generation vehicles on public roads starting this fall.

Daimler Trucks and Torc started their collaboration in spring 2019. Initial public road testing on highways began in September in southwest Virginia, where Torc is headquartered. Additionally, closed-track road testing is conducted at Daimler Trucks North America‘s High Desert Proving Grounds in Madras, OR. In February 2020, Daimler Trucks and Torc announced plans to expand testing of automated truck technology to additional locations, adding new public routes in the US, but the activation was postponed due to Covid-19 pandemic.

During the pandemic downtime, the teams continued testing by focusing on robust simulation testing. Public road testing with safety and health protocols in place resumed in Virginia in June 2020 and will be continued with the next generation of automated driving software. The team in Oregon will continue focusing on the development of vehicle safety systems, which are critical for delivering the safety standards for self-driving trucks today and in the future. The goal is to refine a truck chassis that is perfectly suited for highly automated driving and includes the redundancy of systems needed to achieve safe, reliable driving.

“After one year of collaboration with Torc, we have successfully deployed trucks with SAE Level 4 intent technology on public roads and expanded our test fleet with trucks, miles and learnings,” said Martin Daum, chairman of the board of management of Daimler Truck AG. “Partnering with Torc has created a unique and even more powerful team of innovators at Daimler Trucks. We remain fully committed to this collaboration and to focusing on the shared goal of bringing highly automated trucks to series production.”

Daimler Trucks North America president and CEO Roger Nielsen said this will not happen overnight, but with Daimler‘s priority and vision for safer roads and efficiencies for its customers, it is committed to the journey.

“We listen carefully to our customers and we see potential to deliver commercial value to them and to society.”

Daimler Trucks head of Autonomous Technology Group Dr Peter Vaughan Schmidt said the partnership has enabled both teams to move faster on developing Level 4 trucks, providing Daimler engineers with insights on how the technology will impact truck design, and providing Torc with data and perspective on what technology will work best for the trucking industry.

“We will implement the results of our collaboration in the next phase of public road testing later this year.”

Torc Robotics CEO Michael Fleming said a lot had been accomplished during the first year.

“In addition to testing our technology stack on trucks on the highway in Virginia, we have scaled up our team and grown quickly – recently opening our expanded headquarters in Virginia to accommodate this growth. Daimler‘s commitment to safety, innovation leadership of truck technology and foundational knowledge of on-road scenarios that truckers encounter has moved our system faster than we could have done alone as a technology firm. By working with the inventor of the truck and number one truck OEM, we are convinced that Level 4 trucks can be commercialised safely with a strong business case.”

Daimler Trucks has dozens of years of experience in testing and validating the durability, reliability and safety of commercial vehicles around the world. In 2019, Daimler Trucks North America, the North America market share leader, unveiled the first SAE Level 2 automated truck, the Freightliner Cascadia.

Similarly, Torc has 15 years of experience in commercialising self-driving technology in heavy-duty, safety-critical applications. Moreover, Torc‘s ‘Asimov‘ autonomous driving system has been tested on public roads including a cross-country journey. As a result of combining their extensive technology and testing experience, Daimler Trucks and Torc have developed a comprehensive validation approach and safety protocols for automated driving; aligned with the federal framework policy for testing and commercial deployment of SAE Level 4 automated trucks.

All automated test drives require the combination of a safety conductor, overseeing the system, and a highly trained safety driver, certified by Daimler Trucks and Torc. All safety drivers hold commercial driver‘s licenses and are specially trained in vehicle dynamics and automated systems. 

As part of this research and development, Portland-based Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) is refining a truck chassis that is perfectly suited for highly automated driving as well as the redundancy of systems needed to achieve safe, reliable driving. As part of the Autonomous Technology Group, DTNA is also researching the infrastructure required for the operational testing of initial application cases. DTNA is contributing to the successful development of automated driving technology and vehicle integration for heavy-duty trucks.