- Daimler Trucks agreed to acquire a majority stake in Torc Robotics, giving it access to a team of experts focused on the development of autonomous vehicle (AV) technology, according to company announcements. The size of the deal was not disclosed.
- "We are forming the ideal combination between Torc’s expertise on agile software development and our experience in delivering reliable and safe truck hardware," Martin Daum, a member of Daimler AG's Board of Management, said in a statement.
- The two companies said they want to commercialize level 4 autonomous trucks, defined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as a vehicle that can "perform all driving tasks and monitor the driving environment – essentially, do all the driving – in certain circumstances."
"Torc’s Level 4 system has been shown to operate well for both urban and highway driving in rain, snow, fog, and sunshine," CEO of Daimler Trucks North America Roger Nielsen said in a statement.
Our goal is to put highly automated trucks on roadways within the decade. With Daimler Trucks' acquisition of a majority stake in @torcrobotics, our vision of a safer, sustainable and more efficient future is taking shape today. #TheNextLevel— Daimler Trucks NA (@DaimlerTrucksNA) March 29, 2019
Learn more: https://t.co/7FeNMYEbos pic.twitter.com/tfTAKX0TME
The business case for AVs is well understood. One recent report on autonomous driving estimates these vehicles, with full autonomy, could reduce operating costs for carriers by 45%, according to McKinsey.
The federal government has also voiced support for greater autonomy in trucking, citing potential safety advantages. The Department of Transportation said in its most recent guidance on AVs that the best way to reduce "fatalities and crashes involving large trucks and buses is to avoid unnecessary barriers to the development of [Automated Driving Systems] in commercial vehicles."
When exactly these level 4 trucks will actually take to the road is up in the air. Nielsen said "it might be 10 years" before something is on the road, according to the Roanoke Times. Daimler said in a tweet its "goal is to put highly automated trucks on roadways within the decade."
Torc will maintain its name, existing customers and offices in Blacksburg, Virginia. It plans to expand its team "significantly" as a result of this deal.