Self-Driving Trucks in Tests on Virginia Roads

Daimler wants them making deliveries within a decade.

September 12, 2019

PORTLAND, Ore.—Daimler Trucks of Portland, working with its subsidiary Torc Robotics is testing highly automated heavy-duty trucks on highways in Virginia, according to The self-driving test trucks have a specially trained driver and an engineer in the cab and operate in regular traffic on public highways around Blacksburg, Virginia, the headquarters of Torc.

Together, the companies are testing Level 4 automated driving capabilities, which would enable trucks to drive themselves without requiring driver input, at least in specific areas and under certain conditions. Daimler wants to introduce the technology within 10 years in order to prevent crashes, improve freight efficiency and reduce driver stress and fatigue. The company believes automated trucks will eventually haul freight on open highways in hub-to-hub operations.

“Bringing Level 4 trucks to the public roads is a major step toward our goal to deliver reliable and safe trucks for the benefits of our customers, our economies and society,” said Martin Daum, head of Daimler’s global truck and bus division.

The Level 4 test trucks are outfitted with Torc’s self-driving software and an array of lidar sensors, cameras and radar to determine the vehicle’s surroundings. They also pull trailers with added weight to simulate a load.

In January, Daimler officials announced the company would invest $570 million to achieve Level 4 autonomy within a decade, and six months later, the company established an Autonomous Technology Group to consolidate its automated driving activities across the globe. Torc was acquired by Daimler Trucks in August.

Michael Fleming, CEO of Torc and one of the Virginia Tech engineering students that founded the self-driving vehicle company in 2005, stated, “Our whole team is thrilled to be working alongside our Daimler colleagues as we pursue the commercialization of Level 4 trucks to bring this technology to the market, because we strongly believe it can save lives.”