Daimler acquires autonomous tech developer to further push into automated driving

The 2020 Freightliner Cascadia, pictured here, will come standard with a SAE Level 2 automation rating. Daimler wants to deploy SAE Level 4 trucks within 10 years.The 2020 Freightliner Cascadia, pictured here, will come standard with a SAE Level 2 automation rating. Daimler wants to deploy SAE Level 4 trucks within 10 years.

Daimler Trucks and Buses, global parent company of Freightliner, has acquired a majority stake in Torc Robotics, developer of self-driving software. The move is part of Daimler’s push to develop Level 4 automated trucks, the company says. Level 4 automated vehicles require a human to operate, but require little input from a driver.

Daimler Trucks and Buses CEO Martin Daum said the company will continue to leverage the automated technology from Daimler’s passenger car division, but the vehicle physics and application demands in heavy-duty trucking require unique autonomous development to reach Daimler’s 10-year goal of delivering SAE Level 4 trucks that initially will be deployed in hub-to-hub operations along U.S. highways.

“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.

SAE Level 4 autonomy still requires the need for a driver, but the system’s ability to safely bring the truck to a stop in the event of an emergency without intervention can help redefine the role of the driver, Daimler says.

Daimler’s roadmap for autonomous development began in 2014 with the introduction of the Mercedes-Future Truck 2025 concept truck in Europe. In 2015, DTNA unveiled the Freightliner Inspiration truck, the precursor to the 2020 Freightliner Cascadia that will be available with SAE Level 2 partially automated driving features later this year. Daum said SAE Level 4 technology will require a couple years of development before the company can pinpoint a timeline for commercially viable adoption.

“Partially automated systems provide optimal support for the driver,” Daum said. “We have already achieved a lot with this technology. Still, partially automated driving is an intermediate goal for us. Within a decade we expect to put highly automated Level 4 truck in production and on the road.”

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