Torc Robotics will use Freightliner Cascadia test trucks to develop and test its Level 4 self-driving technology. The trials will commence early next year. The test trucks, internally known as “Gen 2” are the second iteration of trucks jointly developed by Torc and Freightliner parent Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA).
Torc and Daimler aim to codevelop a Level 4 Freightliner Cascadia, which includes safety-critical redundancy components, as well as the seamless 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,”said Michael Fleming, Torc CEO, in a prepared statement. “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.” Torc has been commercializing its self-driving technology in heavy-duty applications for more than a dozen years. Fleming says Torc is directly applying this experience to solve the challenges ahead.
“Our partnership with Torc is critical to our efforts to commercialize a Level 4 highly automated truck,” said Roger Nielsen, president/CEO of DTNA, in a statement. “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.”
Market-ready self-driving vocational trucks must emulate the actions of the most experienced and safe truck drivers. The partners are developing software and hardware that is seamlessly integrated to reliably 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.
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 many lessons learned from testing and development since the partners started working together in 2019.
The upgrades included in the “Gen 2” prototype truck are specifically designed to bolster the testing effort and accelerate data collection to assist in machine learning and algorithmic development.
Improvements in data collection and transfer will help the development team expand capabilities quickly and safely, supporting Torc’s effort to scale its test fleet in multiple locations. Additional sensor density and coverage will assist in overall high-fidelity perception performance and long-range sensing power, critical for highway driving.