Daimler Trucks announced late last week that it would be acquiring a majority stake in Torc Robotics, a leader in self-driving vehicle technology.
Under the agreement, Torc will retain its name, personnel and facilities. However, it will work with Daimler Trucks across the Daimler portfolio — including Mercedes-Benz Cars — to harness automated driving technologies with the goal of producing a truck capable of Level 4 autonomous driving.
Torc is not just a flash-in-the-pan startup. It’s been in the self-driving car tech business for quite a while. In fact, the firm participated in and completed the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Urban Challenge in 2007.
“Torc’s Level 4 system has been shown to operate well for both urban and highway driving in rain, snow, fog, and sunshine,” Roger Nielsen, CEO of Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA), which includes the market-leading Freightliner brand, said in a statement.
Autonomy Level Up
Daimler’s in-house self-driving tech has allowed it to implement Level 2 autonomy in some of its current trucks. These systems allow the trucks to independently brake, accelerate, and steer. Stepping up to Level 4 autonomy literally takes the tech to the next level.
Level 4 is essentially fully autonomous driving with the caveat that the tech can’t handle anything you throw at it. Only Level 5, for example, could navigate an unmapped road-less desert. Level 4 relies on heavily mapped roads for its autonomy. Level 5 is so far off, it’s effectively theoretical. So let’s consider Torc’s automated driving tech the top of the self-driving heap.
Self-driving trucks will be necessary in the future because, not only are they safer than human drivers, they’re more efficient. And whether trucks are running on diesel or all-electric powertrains, efficiency is the name of the game.