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Blacksburg Based Company Completes Road Trip with Self Driving Car

Mallory Noe-Payne



More than ten years ago, a small team of students and engineers from Virginia Tech won big at a national contest for software that allowed a car to drive all on its own.


That technology has since grown into a successful Blacksburg-based company that’s on the cutting edge of self-driving technology.

The company just completed its first cross-country road trip, and Mallory Noe-Payne was there as they pulled into their final stop.


After having logged more than 4,300 self-driving miles, from D.C. to Seattle and back, the car pulled up at Virginia’s executive mansion in Richmond and picked up Governor Terry McAuliffe  for one last loop around the block.

“Fascinating technology,” says McAuliffe. “We didn’t touch anything and it stopped at the stoplight, and when it turned green it automatically took off and took a right.”

TORC Robotics, the Blacksburg based company, doesn’t manufacture cars. Instead, it designs the software that can make just about any vehicle self-driving. Researchers now have two Lexus RX’s outfitted with radar and camera technology. CEO Michael Fleming explains.

“So we take all that sensor data, combine it into a representation of what you and I see within the world. Looking at roads, lane lines, pedestrians and other cars,” says Fleming.

TORC has already sold the technology for commercial use in mining operations and with military vehicles, but executives are hoping test runs like this cross-country trip will help them get ready for the consumer market soon.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association