Autonomous Vehicles Put Their Skills to the Test on Route 66

( — Torc Robotics, the developer of autonomous trucking, is test-driving prototypes on Route 66 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Axios reported.

The company, a subsidiary of German-based Daimler Truck, has been testing self-driving trucks in Albuquerque for years due to the area’s mountainous terrain and varied weather. Torc said it expects its autonomous trucks to be ready for operation by 2027 and recently unveiled plans for the trucks to operate throughout the American Southwest.

As it works toward commercial deployment, Torc has been test-driving its prototypes with safety drivers and monitors along Albuquerque’s Interstate 40, once the infamous Route 66, to measure the progress.

The autonomous trucks have been collecting various data, including road conditions, possible hazards, traffic laws, and driver behavior on the highway and at busy intersections in the city.

Torc CEO Peter Vaughan Schmidt wasn’t aware of Route 66’s historic significance at first but told Axios that test-driving the truck on the iconic American highway was fitting.

The company’s autonomous trucks are designed to operate within two hubs, with other vehicles taking over for the final mile of transport.

The trucks use various sensors, including radar, cameras, and long-distance lidar, to drive hundreds of highway miles, usually in the right lane. Using artificial intelligence, the trucks can identify and distinguish objects like people and cars. The trucks can also detect when it’s time to fill the gas tank. They are also trained to exit the highway at the correct location and navigate the short distance on surface streets to arrive at the hub.

If something goes wrong along the way, like a flat tire or a collision, the trucks send a distress signal to HQ so assistance can be dispatched.

Schmidt told Axios that Torc is working on scaling its design to help companies dealing with driver shortages. It plans to use its autonomous trucks in the Midwest and Southwest and hopes to eventually expand to Europe.

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