Daimler Trucks, a Portland, Ore.-based division of the Daimler Group, announced a majority stake in Torc Robotics, Blacksburg, Va., to develop what is said to be a one-of-a-kind combination to commercialize highly automated trucks (SAE Level 4) on U.S. roads.

“With the ever-rising demand for road transportation, not the least through e-commerce, there is a strong business case for self-driving trucks in the U.S. market, and I believe the fastest path to commercialization for self-driving trucks is in partnership with Daimler Trucks, the OEM market leader. This move is in line with our mission of saving lives, and represents another major milestone for Torc since crossing the finish line in the DARPA Urban Challenge 12 years ago,” says Michael Fleming, chief executive officer of Torc.

“Bringing Torc Robotics within the Daimler Trucks family creates a unique and powerful team of innovators to put highly automated trucks on the road. Daimler Trucks and Torc Robotics complement each other perfectly in terms of resources, expertise and skill sets. We are forming the ideal combination between Torc’s expertise on agile software development and our experience in delivering reliable and safe truck hardware,” says Martin Daum, member of the board of management Daimler AG, responsible for trucks and buses. “Together, we will provide a sustainable way for our customers to meet the ever-growing freight demand and benefit both the economy and society.”

“Torc is not a startup, but one of the world’s most experienced companies for vehicle automation. Torc takes a practical approach to commercialization and offers advanced, road-ready technology, plus years of experience in heavy vehicles. Torc’s Level 4 system has been shown to operate well for both urban and highway driving in rain, snow, fog and sunshine,” says Roger Nielsen, chief executive officer of Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA).

As part of the overall agreement, the Torc team will work closely with Daimler Trucks’ developers, particularly with the research and development team, to develop its Asimov self-driving software and testing at the Blacksburg facility. At the same time, DTNA will focus on further evolving automated driving technology and vehicle integration for heavy-duty trucks at its Automated Truck Research & Development Center in Portland.

Under the agreement, Torc will remain a separate entity retaining its name, team, existing customers and facilities.