Daimler is clearly eager to expand its plans for self-driving trucks. The automotive giant is teaming up with Waymo to develop trucks capable of level 4 autonomy, or full self-driving in specific conditions. The early strategy will focus on a modified Freightliner Cascadia that uses Waymo Driver for navigation.
This first truck will be available in the US in the “coming years,” the companies said. The two would also “investigate” expanding their efforts to other brands and markets.
The deal is a big coup for Waymo. It had already been testing driverless trucks, but this gives it an alliance with one of the heavyweights in the field. Daimler’s rival Volvo has already sided with NVIDIA for hardware and some aspects of software.
Daimler isn’t shy about its reasoning: this gives it “two strong partners” for its autonomous trucking plans, the other being its recent acquisition Torc Robotics. It’s not clear how this will influence Torc’s involvement (we’ve asked Torc for comment), but it’s evident Daimler wants to step up its plans to a degree where one partner isn’t enough.
Update (6:30 PM ET): Torc responded to the news with the statement below.
“Torc is confident that there will be multiple providers of self-driving trucking solutions to the $800 billion trucking market. Daimler Trucks’ recent dual-strategy approach reflects this view by providing its chassis to third parties in addition to a fully integrated solution through Torc Robotics. This strategy of offering customers a choice is similar to how Daimler Trucks offers customers a choice of a drivetrain with fully integrated engine, as well as a third-party engine.
Torc’s recent announcements to hire an additional 350 employees, establish a test center in New Mexico, and introduce a second-generation test truck, reflect its commitment to safely bringing self-driving trucks to market. As a 15-year industry veteran, Torc will continue tapping its experience in heavy-duty applications to developing the best L4 truck for long-haul trucking. “We have a winning team that is solving challenges that no one has solved before,” said Michael Fleming, Torc CEO. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.””