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Daimler Truck and Torc Robotics collaborate with logistic companies on on-highway autonomous trucking

An autonomous truck drives on a highway
Trailers are coupled with an L4 autonomous truck that safely navigates long stretches of highways by driving autonomously

With Daimler Truck's independent subsidiary, Torc Robotics, the company is pushing ahead with the development of autonomous trucking in the United States. The companies have been testing a fleet of autonomous trucks on public roads in the U.S. on a daily basis. As a next step, Torc is now cooperating with U.S. logistics companies to further develop the applications for autonomous trucking. To that end, Torc has established the Torc Autonomous Advisory Council (TAAC) with key freight industry players to incorporate deep industry insights into its development process. Council members such as Schneider, Covenant Logistics, Penske Truck Leasing, Ryder System, Inc., C.H. Robinson, and Baton as well as Daimler Truck North America, will provide guidance to Torc as Torc integrates with the freight network and tackles challenges beyond highway driving.

With customer co-creation, Torc enters into the next stage of development, focusing even more sharply on specific customer requirements and concrete business models. Daimler Truck and Torc want to make autonomous trucking a reality and plan to commercialize the technology within this decade.

"We are fully committed to autonomous trucking as it can benefit everyone," said Martin Daum, chairman of the board of management at Daimler Truck. "It will increase safety because systems do not get tired and do not lose attention. It will boost logistics performance by enabling trucks to run more. It will help society cope with the growing volume of freight, particularly in times of severe driver shortages. We see an opportunity for Daimler Truck to increase our service revenue, as well as for significant market and growth potential. For all these reasons we are developing the Level 4 autonomous-ready truck of the future."

"I am really impressed with what we have experienced at the Albuquerque test centre," said Joe Kaeser, chairman of the supervisory board at Daimler Truck Holding AG. "The Daimler Truck team has done a fascinating job in making autonomous trucking work. Riding along in the Level 4 trucks provides a real sense of what is possible. Combined with our innovation power in sustainable technologies, we can support our customers in building their mobility business of the future."

Progress on the way to hub-to-hub deployment in the U.S.

Since acquiring a majority stake in Torc three years ago, Daimler Truck has made progress in turning autonomous trucks from an idea into reality. Typical driving scenarios such as lane changes and complex merges have been tested intensively and have proven that Torc's autonomous driving software can safely navigate on highways. Recently, Torc has expanded its testing and is demonstrating L4 autonomous trucks with enhanced capabilities in more complex scenarios. Equipped with LiDAR, radar and camera technology, the trucks are capable of advanced driving behaviours on surface streets, ramps, and turns at controlled intersections.

These capabilities are needed for the planned deployment in the hub-to-hub use case. In this application, drivers deliver goods in conventional trucks over the first mile to transfer hubs along highways in key U.S. freight corridors. From there, the trailer is coupled with an L4 autonomous truck that safely navigates long stretches of highways by driving autonomously from hub-to-hub. Once the L4 truck reaches the destination hub, the last-mile distribution will continue via manually driven trucks. Factors such as long, open stretches of highway, increasing demand for freight movement, large fleets, and forward-looking regulators make the U.S. the ideal proving ground to deploy this new technology first.

"Three years ago, we set out with a clear goal to commercialize Level 4 autonomous trucks," said Dr. Peter Vaughan Schmidt, head of the autonomous technology group at Daimler Truck. "Technologically, we have come a long way since. As a next step, Torc is now involving leading logistic companies to specifically develop the real-world use case of the autonomous logistic system of the future. We are on the right path and together with our partners we share the pioneering spirit and the willingness to succeed in autonomous trucking."

This truck has been designed and developed with a second set of critical systems, such as steering and braking to meet Daimler Truck's safety standards.

Daimler Truck develops autonomous-ready Freightliner Cascadia

In the past few years, engineers at Daimler Truck North America have developed a scalable autonomous truck platform with safety systems. Based on Freightliner's flagship truck, the Class 8 autonomous-ready Cascadia enables the deployment of autonomous trucking. This truck has been designed and developed with a second set of critical systems, such as steering and braking to meet Daimler Truck's safety standards. The vehicle continuously monitors and assesses the health of these systems. In case of interruption or errors, the newly developed redundant systems will be able to safely control the truck. The L4 autonomous-ready Freightliner Cascadia represents a strong foundation that every autonomous driving system needs and is ideal for the integration of autonomous software, hardware, and computing. Thanks to its redundancy of systems, the autonomous truck can contribute to enhancing safety in traffic. Ultimately, it brings Daimler Truck much closer to its vision of accident-free driving.

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