Daimler Trucks and Torc Robotics, partners in Daimler Trucks’ Autonomous Technology Group, will soon expand testing of automated truck technology to new public routes in the U.S. The team completed initial mapping of additional routes in January. These public road testing efforts allow the teams to collect data from real-world traffic scenarios beyond what can be learned from computer simulations and closed road courses.
Initial public road testing started in southwest Virginia last year, where Torc is headquartered. The supportive state and local governments, combined with the well-developed infrastructure and highway systems allow the teams to rigorously test, develop and deploy the automated system. The Autonomous Technology Group will continue to test the next generation of automated driving software in Virginia and will add the upcoming new routes to the data collecting. This extensive testing is part of Daimler Trucks’ and Torc’s comprehensive validation approach to bring safe highly automated trucks to the road.
The expansion of road-testing in the U.S. is part of the group’s continuing real-world application and collaboration with drivers, regulatory affairs and community stakeholders to ensure the common goal of building trust towards improving road safety and efficiencies in transportation.
Dr. Peter Vaughan Schmidt, Head of Autonomous Technology Group at Daimler Trucks, says, “Safety is our highest priority. By expanding our testing to new routes in the U.S. we are able to learn more, work with various partners and apply our advanced testing methods to new environments. These learnings help us to achieve our goal of safe and reliable highly automated driving, delivering value to our customers and society.”
Strong expertise in vehicle and software testing
Daimler Trucks has dozens of years of experience in testing and validating the durability, reliability and safety of commercial vehicles around the world. With Active Drive Assist (Mercedes-Benz Actros, FUSO Super Great) and Detroit Assurance 5.0 with Active Lane Assist (Freightliner Cascadia), Daimler Trucks has brought partially automated driving features into series production. In 2019, Freightliner, the North America market share leader, unveiled the first SAE Level 2 automated truck, the Freightliner Cascadia.
Similarly, Torc’s “Asimov” autonomous driving system has been tested on public roads with zero accidents, including a cross-country journey. In joining their extensive testing experience, Daimler Trucks and Torc have developed a comprehensive validation approach and safety protocols for automated driving and are completely aligned with the federal framework policy for testing and commercial deployment of SAE Level 4 automated trucks.
All automated runs require both an engineer 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.
Daimler Trucks in market leading position as demand grows - best testing conditions in the U.S.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the U.S. has seen the tonnage of goods shipped by trucks increase by 56% in the past decade. This number is expected to nearly double in the next two and a half decades. At the same time, the trucking industry is expected to face a shortage of drivers. These developments contribute to a growing need for safe, reliable, cost-effective trucking solutions. Daimler Trucks North America’s role as the U.S. market leader and as the innovation leader for the industry provides a unique position to safely develop and test automated truck technologies.
Roger Nielsen, President and CEO, Daimler Trucks North America, says, “To keep our promise to always deliver the safest and most reliable products to our customers, we have to explore and deploy new technologies. Achieving our safety targets with highly automated driving systems, requires extensive testing and building trust in the capabilities and benefits of these technologies. Proving the use case on U.S. roads is not only a technological challenge. It requires involvement and input from customers and drivers, legislators, local communities and the public. Each stakeholder plays an important role in developing the framework under which we operate. We strongly believe that collaboration is at the heart of this journey – and we are leading the way.”
Autonomous Technology Group – a global technology powerhouse for automated driving
Following the investment announcement in automated driving at the beginning of last year, Daimler Trucks established the Autonomous Technology Group in June 2019. Together with Torc, Daimler Trucks’ global organization for automated truck driving brings together its worldwide experience and expertise. The group takes responsibility for the overall strategy and implementation of the automated driving roadmap, including research and development, testing and validation and setting up the required operations infrastructure and network with the ultimate vision of series production of highly automated trucks (SAE level 4) within the decade. The Autonomous Technology Group has a global reach with experts working in various locations throughout the company’s worldwide development network located in Portland and Blacksburg in the U.S. and in Stuttgart, Germany.
Torc Robotics: software experts, part of the Daimler Trucks family
Based in Blacksburg, VA, Torc became part of the Autonomous Technology Group in August 2019, following Daimler Trucks’ investment in the company. The combination of the two companies’ strengths create a unique partnership – blending Torc’s expertise in self-driving software development and Daimler Trucks’ experience in delivering reliable and safe trucks. By offering advanced, road-ready technology, plus years of experience in heavy vehicles, Torc has grown into a global industry leader in the field of automated driving. Torc’s SAE Level 4 virtual driver system “Asimov” has been integrated and tested successfully in multiples applications running on public roads from urban to long-distance highway routes as well as in rain, snow, fog and varying light conditions.
Michael Fleming, CEO of Torc Robotics, says, “We have always said that commercializing road-ready Level 4 vehicles is a marathon, not a sprint. By partnering with Daimler Trucks, the inventor of the truck and market leader of the industry, we believe the technology will be introduced safely and reliably.”
Daimler Trucks North America develops redundant vehicle chassis and infrastructure
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.
Daimler Trucks, the pioneer of automated trucks
Daimler Trucks is the pioneer of truck automation. In 2014, the world’s leading truck manufacturer presented the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025, the world’s first automated truck, and was the first to demonstrate the technological opportunities and great potential that automated trucks offer customers and society. In 2015, Daimler’s Freightliner Inspiration Truck obtained the first-ever road license for a partially automated commercial vehicle demonstrating the promise of automated driving on the highways of Nevada. Today, Daimler offers partially automated driving features (SAE Level 2) with the Mercedes-Benz Actros, the Freightliner Cascadia and the FUSO Super Great.