BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ7) A self-driving car created by a Blacksburg company just finished a cross-country trip this week. The TORC car drove through 20 states with very little help from humans.
"Think about all the different environments that we encounter going across the country," said Michael Fleming, TORC's CEO.
It was a trip for the history books. A self-driving car drove more than 43 hundred autonomous miles from DC to Seattle, Washington and back to Richmond. The team studied how the car handles itself in heavy rains, highway detours, and heavy city traffic.
"And it was that exposure to straight and open lanes to mountainous and curvy lanes to high altitudes, low altitudes, cold temperatures, warm temperatures. Think about all the variety there. So we look at how well does our technology work, how well does our sensors work and how well does the vehicle work in those changing environments," Fleming said.
The company is no stranger to long road trips. In April, another self-driving car ventured to the birthplace of the Model T in Detroit, logging more than 1,000 autonomous miles.
Over the last 10 years the company has built its brand on autonomous technology for defense and mining industries.
TORC unveiled its own self-driving car technology earlier this month.
"We focus on the high levels of automation. Where you're hands off, you're feet off, and your mind off as well. That technology, we believe, is going to come sooner than most people think and it's going to be done through a partnership model," Fleming said.
Fleming says that cross-country trip was a testing milestone. The car successfully drove through aggressive traffic in Wyoming and maneuvered around obstacles like tire pieces in the road.