Starting in early 2021, Torc Robotics intends to implement an improved Freightliner Cascadia prototype in testing autonomous truck technology.
This new generation of Freightliner Cascadia test trucks, developed with Daimler Trucks in North America, will contribute to the development of level 4 automatic driving technology – a high level of automation.
Test trucks, known internally as “Gen 2” are the second iteration of trucks developed jointly by the two companies and represent an important step along the Daimler-Torc journey “to become the standard in self-driving trucks and to and advance the life-saving mission, “according to a statement issued by the two companies.
By co-developing a Level 4 Cascadia Freightliner, already equipped with “safety-critical components” and integrating the additional technology needed for self-driving capability, the two companies hope to “reinvent the idea of the truck,” the statement continued.
“In order to meet the performance requirements of a self-driving truck, the traditional truck chassis needs to be reinvented. Like any major innovation, it requires a gradual approach to the final product. We are taking this step at some point, certainly as a guiding principle, “said Michael Fleming, CEO of Torc.
“We knew from the beginning that automatic driving technology could not be marketed without an OEM. In trucks, there is only a handful of OEMs and we were lucky to join the industry leader, ”he said.
Safety and efficiency standards for autonomous trucks
Autopilot trucks ready to enter the market must imitate the actions of the most experienced and safest truck drivers.
Torc and Daimler are working to develop software and hardware that can be seamlessly integrated to reliably manage vehicle safety critical components such as braking, steering, power distribution and messaging.
The team’s vision for a level 4 vehicle platform is one in which the idea of autonomy and software behaviors work together.
In the event of a brake failure in a level 4 truck, for example, the redundancy components would maintain the vehicle’s ability to slow down and stop without human intervention.
The Torc self-driving software may then be able to maneuver in a safe location so that a support crew can repair the braking system.
Human intuition in autonomous management systems
Another integral behavior that the team is working on is how experienced truck drivers are able to feel component failures.
“Our software engineers work with highly skilled truck drivers to understand this experience and translate this human intuition into built-in sensors and algorithms,” said Fleming.
Both companies have said they will launch self-driving trucks only when they are safe and reliable, rather than a set date. Fleming said he was convinced the team would achieve its goal.
“We are two pioneers joining forces – we understand the complexity of marketing autopilot technology,” Fleming said. “Our mission is to save lives, and our vision is to become the standard in self-driving trucks.”