Photo: Torc Robotics
Truck Driver Wearing Mask In Cab Torc Robotics

Torc to scale self-driving fleet with DTNA test trucks in early 2021

Oct. 9, 2020
According to both companies, the goal is to co-develop a Level 4 Freightliner Cascadia that includes safety-critical redundancy components, as well as integration of additional computes and hardware that are required for self-driving technology.

Torc Robotics plans to scale its self-driving truck testing in the Southwest in early 2021 using an enhanced prototype truck developed with Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA). This new generation of Freightliner Cascadia test trucks bolsters Torc’s capability to develop and test its Level 4 self-driving technology, according to the company.

The test trucks, internally known as "Gen 2," are the second iteration of trucks jointly developed by the trucking and technology companies. This milestone is one of many along the Daimler-Torc journey to realize their vision of becoming the standard in self-driving trucking, the companies said.

According to both companies, their joint goal is to reinvent the truck by co-developing a Level 4 Freightliner Cascadia which includes safety-critical redundancy components, as well as the integration of additional computes and hardware required for self-driving technology.

“To meet the redundancy and performance requirements of a self-driving truck, the traditional truck chassis must be reinvented. Just like any major innovation, it requires a stair-step approach toward the final product. We are taking this one step at a time, with safety as our guiding principle,” said Michael Fleming, Torc’s CEO. Torc has been commercializing its self-driving technology in heavy-duty applications for more than a dozen years. 

In 2019, Torc and DTNA created a relationship by "combining the pioneer and leader in trucking and a pioneer and leader in self-driving technology," the companies said. 

“We knew from the outset that self-driving technology cannot be commercialized without an OEM. In trucking, there are only a handful of OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] and we were fortunate to join the industry leader,” Fleming said.

The goal: A Level 4 integrated truck

“Our partnership with Torc is critical to our efforts to commercialize a Level 4 highly automated truck,” said Roger Nielsen, president, and CEO of DTNA. “Torc’s experience with developing self-driving technology and their focus on safety makes them the ideal partner. Our joint goal is a Level 4 integrated truck that provides true customer value.”

According to DTNA, market-ready self-driving trucks must emulate the actions of the most experienced and safe truck drivers. The partners are developing software and hardware that is integrated to handle failures of safety-critical vehicle components, such as braking, steering, power distribution, and messaging.

The team’s vision for a Level 4 vehicle platform is one in which component redundancies and software behaviors work together. In the case of a brake failure in a Level 4 truck, redundancies would maintain the vehicle’s ability to decelerate and stop without human intervention. Torc’s self-driving software would then be able to maneuver to a safe location so a support crew could service the brake system, according to Fleming.

Another integral behavior the team is working to replicate is the way experienced truck drivers are able to feel component failures. “Our software engineers are working with highly skilled truck drivers to understand this experience and transition this human intuition into embedded sensors and algorithms,” Fleming said.

Iterative truck generations for development

Torc and DTNA expect to develop multiple iterative test truck models before they release a self-driving truck for commercial customers. The prototypes will incorporate lessons learned from testing and development.

The upgrades included in the "Gen 2" prototype trucks are specifically designed to bolster the testing effort and accelerate data collection to assist in machine learning and algorithmic development.

Both companies have stated that they will only deploy self-driving trucks when they are safe and reliable – not by a set date.

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