German automaker Daimler, the sales leader of Class 8 tractor-trailer semis, is taking a majority ownership stake in U.S. autonomous vehicle technology firm Torc Robotics, Daimler said Friday.
Neither company will disclose how much Daimler plans to invest or what percentage of Torc the German company will own.
“Torc takes a practical approach to commercialization and offers advanced, road-ready technology, plus years of experience in heavy vehicles,” said Roger Nielsen, CEO of Daimler Trucks North America, in a statement announcing the deal.
Torc Robotics is one of several firms developing and road testing technology for autonomous trucks. Embark and self-driving truck company TuSimple have drawn plenty of attention and venture capital money as they develop autonomous semis.
Torc, based in Blacksburg, Virginia, was co-founded in 2005 by CEO Michael Fleming who had entered robotic competitions while studying at Virginia Tech. Fourteen years later, Fleming’s company is considered by many to be a leader in the rapidly growing field of autonomous vehicles.
In a statement announcing Daimler’s investment, Fleming said the U.S. will be a primary target for putting self-driving semi’s on highways.
“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,” he said. The trucking industry has become a focus of autonomous vehicle development due to several factors including the shortage of truck drivers.