The military has developed a robotic convoy that doesn't need humans

Illustration for article titled The military has developed a robotic convoy that doesnt need humans

The U.S. Army, working with Lockheed Martin, has successfully demonstrated the ability of fully autonomous convoys to operate in urban environments and under difficult conditions. It's all part of the military's ongoing effort to eliminate soldiers from the equation.

The demonstration took place at Fort Hood, and it's part of the Army and Marine Corp's Autonomous Mobility Appliqué System (AMAS) program. The successful test marked the completion of the program's Capabilities Advancement Demonstration (CAD). The AMAS system is aimed at augmenting the safety and security of human drivers in a convoy mission, while the purpose of CAD is to completely eliminate the need for soldiers to occupy and/or drive these vehicles in warzones or other hazardous areas.

During the test, various driverless vehicles — like the Army's M915 truck and a Palletized Loading System (PLS) vehicle — had to navigate hazards and obstacles that a real-world convoy would encounter, such as road intersections, oncoming traffic, stalled and passing vehicles, pedestrians, and traffic circles in both urban and rural test areas.

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According to Lockheed, the software and hardware driving the system performed "exactly as designed."

To work, the integrated system uses a high performance LIDAR sensor, a second GPS receiver, and additional algorithms. The system comes in the form a kit that can be installed on virtually any military vehicle. Gotta say, that's impressive.

On the Pentagon side of things, the system was developed by the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC). Given that the word "tank" is in the name, you can probably guess where this technology is eventually going.

"We are very pleased with the results of the demonstration, because it adds substantial weight to the Army's determination to get robotic systems into the hands of the warfighter," noted TARDEC technical manager Bernard Theisen in a statement.

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Wow, Lockheed is busy bringing the future to a battlefield near you.

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DISCUSSION

The military isn't trying to remove humans from the equation per se. It is trying to make sure humans are where humans need to be, doing what they do best. Driving trucks along endless supply routs is by any estimation a poor use of a human being. Placing humans in C and C situations or up front in active combat utilizes full human potential which to date is hard to duplicate with robotics.

It is worth noting that most deaths in supply and support rolls do not occur during hostilities but after fighting has ended when troops remain stationed in remote areas and need material support from distant supply infrastructure. Robots are ideal for moving food and bullets through controlled areas.

Taking the idea a little further, it would be useful if every human in a convoy was in a combat roll and armed. No need to have (essentially) defenseless soldiers behind the wheel. Of course this means wishing an "escort mission" on many soldiers - something that as a gamer I would not wish on my worst enemy (cough-cough Rogue Squadron cough-cough).