Torc Robotics gets help to analyze self-driving Freightliner data

Torc Robotics generates millions of gigabytes of data testing self-driving Freightliner Cascadias for Daimler Truck AG. Now it is contracting with Amazon’s cloud business for faster analysis.

Amazon Web Services Inc. (AWS) will manage data transfer, storage and compute capacity as Torc prepares to deploy its second generation Class 8 self-driving trucks in New Mexico and Virginia. 

The size of the fleet is growing. More data is being created. Engineering teams in the U.S. and Germany need help managing it.

“As we’ve seen the increased needs for data storage, for computational horsepower, it really makes sense to leverage all of the systems that AWS has built up,” Ben Hastings, Torc’s chief technology officer, told FreightWaves.

Daimler Truck AG acquired Torc in 2019 to lead its efforts in Level 4 autonomy. A Level 4 vehicle can perform most driving functions without human involvement. Daimler also partners with Alphabet’s Waymo, the self-driving unit of Google. And it works with startup Luminar on lidar sensing.

Petabytes of data

Torc’s first-generation self-driving fleet in New Mexico generates petabytes of data from testing on public roads. A petabyte is 1 million gigabytes. The second generation of trucks will cover expanded routes with higher-resolution sensors capable of detecting objects at greater distances.

“Range is just one piece of the equation,” Hastings said. “What do we need from the overall sensor suite to confidently see a variety of different objects we would encounter on a highway under a variety of different environmental conditions?”

Adding AWS to the mix does not mean the trucks will be commercially available any sooner. Daimler expects to launch driverless trucks “within a decade.”

AWS works with other autonomous system developers, including TuSimple, which continues to attract investment from truck manufacturers and fleets. 

“We will bring products to market when it’s safe,” Torc CEO Michael Fleming told FreightWaves in an interview Tuesday. “We will not set a timetable and let that timetable jeopardize safety.”

Trusting relationships

Torc has been in business since 2005. The company believes truck manufacturers, not startups, are key to successful autonomous trucking. That is why it joined Daimler.

“There can be some skepticism, some fear, all different types of emotions regarding self-driving trucks,” Fleming said. “The only way to commercialize this technology is through an OEM. And it’s not just because they manufacture the chassis. They have the trust and the relationship with the customer.”

Fleming declined to say when Torc would let fleets try out the trucks, saying “Stay tuned.”

Daimler has 38 battery-powered electric trucks in customer trials. They have amassed nearly 700,000 miles of real-world use, such as drayage and package delivery. Daimler will begin selling Class 8 eCascadias and Class 6 eM2 models in 2022.

“The best way to get customer feedback is not through white papers or PowerPoints,” he said. “[It is] by customers being hands on with the product.  

“We are engaged [and] listening to the customers. We’re challenging the customers. The customers are challenging us as well. This will be rolled out incrementally,” Fleming said. “It will be rolled out safely. And it will be rolled out to meet the driver shortage that currently exists and is expected to increase over time.”

Daimler partners with Luminar in autonomous truck pursuit

Waymo, Daimler joining forces to build autonomous Freightliner Cascadia

Daimler takes a deliberate approach to autonomous trucks

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