Manufacturers Push Robot Trucks While Claiming Drivers Have a Future

Trucks present a giant conundrum for the trucking industry.

The big truck companies have to show they are speeding development of vehicles that eventually will become self-driving cargo containers. Shareholders demand that incumbent truck manufacturers such as Daimler, Volvo and Navistar move forward as younger, nimble manufacturers such as Tesla, Embark and TuSimple start to nibble at their heels.

That’s one of the factors behind Daimler’s acquisition of Torc Robotics, a Virginia-based maker of highly automated vehicle systems that the German automaker will use as a steppingstone to commercializing driverless trucks on U.S. roads.

But at the same time Torc’s Chief Executive Michael Fleming is making sweeping statements like, “There is a strong business case for self-driving trucks in the U.S. market,” Daimler tells Trucks.com that it sees “the key role of the driver for the foreseeable future.”

How can both be true?