– Driverless Trucks Will Keep Army Safe From IEDs (Wired, Jan 31, 2014):
U.S. Army convoys will soon be able to roll into even the roughest of unfriendly foreign urban areas and combat zones without the worry of loss of life, thanks to new technology that will make large vehicles fully autonomous.
In demonstrations earlier this month at Fort Hood, Texas, the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) and Lockheed Martin demonstrated the ability of the Autonomous Mobility Appliqué System (AMAS), which gives full autonomy to convoys to operate in urban environments. In tests, driverless tactical vehicles were able to navigate hazards and obstacles including pedestrians, oncoming traffic, road intersections, traffic circles and stalled and passing vehicles.
Under an initial $11 million contract in 2012, Lockheed Martin developed the multiplatform kit which integrates low-cost sensors and control systems with Army and Marine tactical vehicles to enable autonomous operation in convoys. According to Lockheed, AMAS also gives drivers an automated option to alert, stop and adjust, or take full control under user supervision.
“The AMAS CAD hardware and software performed exactly as designed, and dealt successfully with all of the real-world obstacles that a real-world convoy would encounter,” said David Simon, AMAS program manager for Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, in a statement.
But not only do driverless convoys add a degree of safety under dangerous conditions, they also move the military closer its apparent goal of nearly total autonomous warfare.
“[AMAS] adds substantial weight to the Army’s determination to get robotic systems into the hands of the warfighter,” said TARDEC technical manager Bernard Theisen.
The Pentagon has long sought options for protecting U.S. military convoys from suicide bombers, IEDs and other attacks since the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Most recently, the Afghan Taliban claimed responsibility for an attack on a U.S.-led military convoy in Kabul near Camp Eggers earlier this month, when a roadside bomb exploded but without casualties.