German truck maker takes majority stake in Blacksburg tech firm
One of the world’s largest truck manufacturers has made a growing Virginia firm its co-pilot on its journey to commercialize automated trucks.
An agreement has been signed for Daimler Trucks and Buses Holding Inc. to acquire a majority stake in Blacksburg-based Torc Robotics for an undisclosed sum, the two companies announced Friday. Finalization of the deal is subject to approval from U.S. regulators.
Daimler Trucks and Buses Holding Inc. is a subsidiary of the Germany-based Daimler Group, which bills itself as the inventor of the truck and the world’s largest manufacturer of heavy and medium trucks.
Formed in 2005, Torc specializes in self-driving software. Earlier this year, the company partnered with Transdev, a public transportation firm, to develop fully autonomous electric shuttles. Torc has developed technology for self-driving cars, as well. The company has more than 100 employees in Blacksburg and has been in hiring mode.
Under the agreement with Daimler, Torc will keep its brand and remain a separate entity in Blacksburg. Torc CEO Michael Fleming says it has been exploring opportunities to commercialize self-driving technology in the trucking market. Torc started working with Daimler in the middle of last year.
The fastest way to commercialize is by partnering with an original-equipment manufacturer, Fleming says. He says the backing of Daimler will help Torc grow.
Martin Daum, a member of the board of management at Daimler AG, says it was important to keep Torc in Blacksburg in part because of its proximity to Virginia Tech.
Plans call for Torc to work with Daimler Trucks’ developers, especially a research and development team of Daimler Trucks North America in Portland, Ore. Torc is continuing development of self-driving software called Asimov being tested in Blacksburg.