My Next TORC Adventure Includes My Cat

When I asked David Cutter, Marketing Manager at TORC Technologies–a member company of business accelerator VT KnowledgeWorks–what was new at TORC, I wrote here about him sending me a beautifully written but less-than-adventurous description of TORC’s ByWire XGV.  I reminded him that TORC had let me sit in the magic car and I asked if he could please top that in some way related to me, my cat, or my love of shopping.

Dear Anne,

I thoroughly enjoyed meeting you (again) at the TORC offices, even if you didn’t remember our meeting earlier that morning at the NCTC Technology & Toast!  I really thought I made a better impression…but that’s off topic. 

I apologize if the original information on our ByWire XGV was not as exciting as your previous encounter with Odin, the fully autonomous Ford Escape Hybrid that placed 3rd in the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge.  Let me take a minute to put it in context, for you and for your cat.

First, these advanced technologies are a good ways from being ready for the consumer market.  The recent CNET article about TORC was heavily blogged about, and many comments to the story were along the lines of “Will this thing drive me to work?” 

Like I said, it’s not there yet, but if and when that day comes, one of the reasons will be because leading universities and unmanned systems developers mature the various technologies involved to the point where it is cost effective and makes economical and practical sense to adopt.

The ByWire XGV provides universities and developers with a highly functional, yet extremely flexible and customizable platform to work from.  Instead of reinventing the wheel, spending time and money converting platforms (ground vehicles), worrying about integrating safety systems, power supply & distribution, and a host of over engineering techie stuff, the ByWire XGV packages many of these “details” and allows the R&D efforts to stay focused on the “next level” of autonomous challenges.  It’s cost effective and decreases development time and risks involved in pursuing these advanced initiatives.

I know that was a lot to take in, but think of it like this…TORC considers itself a provider of building blocks of robotic technologies that enable unmanned and autonomous systems.  If you wanted, you could:

  1. Purchase your own vehicle.
  2. Convert it to be drive-by-wire (basically replace the mechanical control systems, like the pedals, with electronic control systems).
  3. Develop and integrate an emergency stop system – after all, if you are investing tens of thousands of dollars developing an unmanned vehicle, you definitely want to have stop control in case of an emergency, right?
  4. Develop and integrate an autonomous navigation system – think of the brains behind Odin that allowed it to drive autonomously for 60 miles in an urban traffic environment.
  5. Develop and integrate an operator control unit, so you can tell the autonomous system what to do.

This is just a top level view, eliminating technical jargon and the many details involved to accomplish each step. 

Being the forward thinkers that we are at TORC, and given that we offer “building block” products that facilitate each phase of the above process, we wanted to package up some of this technology in a form that would allow others to leverage our years of expertise and pursue the higher level challenges in steps 4 & 5.

So, while we can’t take full credit, I would like to think TORC is playing a small role in getting us to the point where you could blog while driving on I-81, or maybe even have your cat drop you off at the mall.  Does she need a booster seat?


Dear David,

Having the TORC ByWire XGV car serve as chauffeur while I am blogging–on the way to a shopping spree–now that would be a wonderful adventure!

Thank you for your consideration of my cat.  She has a roomy travel carriage that would look very sophisticated in a ByWire XGV.

And thank you so much for your innovative reply.  I can tell you’re from TORC

With appreciation,

If you would like to develop a ByWire XGV into an autonomous shopping car–or some other equally useful vehicle–feel free to contact: 

David Cutter
Marketing Manager
TORC Technologies, LLC
2200 Kraft Drive, Suite 1325
Blacksburg, VA 24060
Phone: 540-443-9262
Fax: 540-443-3667

[email protected]

TORC Technologies, LLC is a member company of high-tech business acceleration center VT KnowledgeWorks, located at the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center in Blacksburg, Virginia.

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