BLACKSBURG — Torc Robotics is in the midst of expanding its footprint beyond the New River Valley.
The self-driving systems developer and its majority shareholder Daimler Trucks are currently testing their self-driving trucks on public highways in New Mexico and plan to establish a test center in the Albuquerque area, Torc announced.
The company said in a statement that the test center is an existing building that will be renovated. The project is expected to be complete by the end of the year, barring any delays due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Torc is also continuing testing in Virginia near the development and its headquarters, which is located in the Blacksburg Industrial Park.
“Our deep partnership has enabled us to progress faster and further,” Torc CEO Michael Fleming said in an announcement. “Torc has gained the data and perspective for developing technology for the trucking industry, plus a partner that is committed to safety.”
The partnership has accelerated the work on the kind of automated trucks that they plan to commercialize within the next decade, said Peter Vaughan Schmidt, head of the autonomous technology group at Daimler.
“The partnership has enabled both our teams to move faster on developing Level 4 trucks,” he said. “We will implement the results of our collaboration in the next phase of public road testing later this year.”
The work in New Mexico allows Torc to build on testing in Virginia, Fleming said.
“We are expanding testing to new public routes in New Mexico to collect data in different situations along a major long-haul trucking route for the United States,” he said. “Like Virginia, New Mexico’s highway system offers a range of road and weather conditions.”
The recent announcement from Torc marks yet another development in what has been a busy past year for a locally-founded company that has become one of the New River Valley’s flagship technology firms.
Almost exactly a year ago, Daimler acquired a majority share in Torc and the two entered into an automated truck development partnership. Daimler is the division of the corporation best known for brands such as Freightliner, Mercedes-Benz and Smart.
The agreement, however, allowed Torc to retain its name, management, employees and facilities.
Not long before the unveiling of the latest plans in New Mexico, Torc announced the investment of $8.5 million to expand its Blacksburg software development operations and the creation of 350 new jobs.
Torc announced at the same time that it will establish another facility at the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, the more than 230-acre office and research park near the Blacksburg Industrial Park. It was unclear, however, at the time if the additional facility will be an entirely new building or make use of one of the CRC’s existing structures.
The news of the investment and jobs came after the company completed an expansion of its headquarters, a project that added nearly 16,000 square feet of space and doubled the size of the firm’s home.
Elsewhere, Torc and Daimler’s Level 4 automated trucks have been deployed on closed-course tracks at Daimler’s High Desert Proving Grounds in Madras, Oregon, but Fleming stressed that the deployments are only after extensive testing and safety validation.
Torc currently lists a few jobs in Albuquerque on its site, including three under vehicle safety and testing.