March 29, 2019 / 1:20 PM / 2 months ago

Daimler buys Torc Robotics stake for self-driving trucks

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Daimler Trucks has agreed to buy a majority stake in self-driving truck software maker Torc Robotics as part of a broader push to develop autonomous vehicles.

The Daimler logo is seen before the Daimler annual shareholder meeting in Berlin, Germany, April 5, 2018. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

Torc, based in Blacksburg, Virginia, will help Daimler accelerate software development by giving the German manufacturer access to 120 skilled staff, Daimler Trucks Chief Executive Martin Daum said.

“You cannot have enough expertise in this area. Our Achilles’ heel is the ability to quickly develop software,” Daum said.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Torc Robotics has partnerships to develop self-driving technology with Caterpillar with mining and agricultural applications, and competed in the DARPA self-driving vehicles challenge 12 years ago.

Torc has developed technology that allows vehicles to operate at a high level of automation, known as level 4, helping Daimler to accelerate its own plans for commercializing self-driving vehicles.

“Torc’s Level 4 system has been shown to operate well for both urban and highway driving in rain, snow, fog, and sunshine,” said Roger Nielsen, CEO of Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA), which includes the market-leading Freightliner brand.

Daimler currently offers a level 2 automation system on its trucks, which can automatically brake, accelerate and steer using radar and camera systems that make partially automated driving possible.

“Bringing Torc Robotics within the Daimler Trucks family creates a unique and powerful team of innovators to put highly automated trucks on the road,” Daum said.

Torc will continue to be run on an arms-length basis from Daimler but the Torc team will work closely with Daimler Trucks’ developers, Daimler said.

Torc will continue to develop its Asimov self-driving software and testing at its Blacksburg facility. At the same time, Daimler Trucks will focus on further evolving automated driving technology and vehicle integration for heavy-duty trucks at its Automated Truck Research & Development Center in Portland.

Daimler Trucks will also use know-how about sensors and automation from the group’s Mercedes-Benz passenger car brand, the car and truck maker said.

Reporting by Edward Taylor; Editing by Thomas Seythal and Mark Potter

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