Daimler Trucks is buying a majority stake in Torc Robotics, another play in the company’s efforts to expand its presence in the self-driving commercial vehicle market.
Daimler Trucks is the world’s largest truck manufacturer. Torc, a leader in self-driving technology, will remain a separate entity and keep its name. The company, which has about 100 employees, will remain in Blacksburg, Virginia.
The financial terms of the deal were not discussed on a call with reporters on March 29.
Torc has developed Level 4 automated technology; it will be used to equip Daimler Trucks. Level 4 automation means the vehicle operates on its own without help from the driver. Daimler currently offers Level 2 automation in its trucks, including automatic braking, steering and acceleration through the use of radar and camera systems.
“We recognized early on the tremendous potential of this technology for both on-road safety for freight transportation as well as greater efficiency and sustainability,” said Martin Daum, chief executive of Daimler Trucks and Buses.
“Truck volumes will continue to increase over the years and in the days to come and automated driving is important to manage this increase in an economical and socially meaningful way,” Daum said.
It may be two years or more before Level 4 self-driving technology will become available on Daimler trucks, Daum said.
The push for self-driving trucks is partly because of motor carriers’ continued struggles to recruit, train and retain drivers.
“As we go forward, they [trucking companies] are looking for ways to make their drivers more productive, trying to make them safer and looking for ways that we can make the driving job more attractive to individuals around the country,” said Roger Nielsen, chief executive of Daimler Trucks North America.
While truck manufacturers, motor carriers and the U.S. Department of Transportation are embracing autonomous technology on commercial vehicles, there are still major legal and regulatory framework hurdles before self-driving trucks will be seen driving coast-to-coast on U.S. highways.
“Daimler has been and will continue to be actively engaging all of our government partners across state and federal regulatory agencies to develop a consistent framework that puts safety first and foremost,” Nielsen told FreightWaves. “Safety is the most critical component so we must work hand-in-hand with our government colleagues to achieve this goal.”