The company said Monday at CES that it will supply its Asimov self-driving software to global mobility provider Transdev for use in self-driving shuttles. The systems support Level 4 automated driving, which requires no human role in the driving process and occurs in a select environment.
Transdev says it already has carried 3.5 million passengers in various automated shuttle projects, and the partnership with Torc will focus on providing shuttle service in areas that can complement existing public transportation.
"The time is right to move into this industry," Fleming said. "We've been in the self-driving space for quite some time now — for more than a decade. Automotive mobility started getting attention about four years ago, and we've been waiting a while for that market to pick up."
This marks the third development in recent months regarding Torc's push toward providing self-driving systems for passenger vehicles. On Wednesday, the company said it has partnered with Bordrin Motor Corp. to develop Level 4 self-driving electric vehicles in select cities. A vehicle is expected to be unveiled at the Shanghai auto show in April.
In October, Torc said it integrated its self-driving system into Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans, the same vehicle platform that Waymo has chosen as its primary passenger vehicle for self-driving service. Previously, Torc had used the Lexus RX as its test vehicle and tested across 20 states amid a range of weather, road and traffic conditions.
Fleming says the company has four test vehicles in its own fleet and others embedded with automaker partners that Torc has not yet disclosed. But overall, the company's software is vehicle agnostic.
Transdev and Torc will start testing vehicles on closed courses and on public roads in France this month. In Paris, shuttles will operate in a dedicated lane, offering rides at night and during off-peak hours between a transit station and a university campus. In Rouen, the shuttles will ride on public roads, connecting a business park and local tramway station.
Though he eschewed a quick jump into mobility in favor a roundabout one, Fleming is confident it's been the right path for Torc.
"After the DARPA challenges, Google basically hired a lot of the talent from the first- and second-place teams, and they had a little more money than Torc and didn't need to turn a profit in the next year or next decade," he said. "So their business model is very different."
The need to generate revenue off the bat led Fleming to focus on mining and defense. Autonomous Humvees allowed Torc to focus on its broader mission of saving lives, albeit in a different context than thwarting traffic fatalities. Rather than risk their own lives, soldiers deployed in Middle East battlefields could use self-driving vehicles to search for roadside bombs.
"We were creating distance between fighters and an [improvised explosive device], so that fighter could make their way back home and tuck their child in at night," Fleming said. "It was all about fulfilling our mission of saving lives."
In a sense, that means Torc's systems are among the few production-ready that are battle-tested beyond pilot projects. Whether that's an edge in the realm of everyday travel, where conditions are different, remains a question. But if Torc's intentions regarding the everyday-transportation market were unclear before, they've been answered in recent months, with Monday's partnership the latest development.