An Army plan to have trucks that drive by themselves is moving forward.
The Army has been testing the concept of self-driving trucks for the past few years, including a 2014 demonstration at Fort Hood that included several large vehicles.
“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,” Bernard Theise, one of the researchers involved in the project, said at the time.
As with unmanned aerial systems, better known to the public as drones, it makes sense for the Army to pursue research and development into driverless trucks, or other vehicles for that matter.
As many combat veterans know, one of the biggest dangers during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan came during convoys on the open road when vehicles were traveling from Point A to Point B.
As the wars raged on, the enemy perfected the craft of roadside bombs, better known to Army folks as improvised explosive devices.
In the interest of saving soldiers’ lives, it only makes sense to use the technology of today for use on today’s battlefields.
To that end, another big test of driverless Army trucks is being planned this summer for a stretch of Interstate 69 in Michigan.
“Each truck will transmit its speed and location to roadside units, which in turn will supply the trucks with data such as lane closures and speed limits,” according to a February article in Automotive News about the project. “If the driverless convoys prove to be practical, the Army hopes to retrofit its vehicle fleet with a package of radar, cameras and onboard computers.”
It’s high-tech stuff that will ultimately make the jobs of soldiers safer.
After all, why should a soldier drive through a danger zone, laden with potential bombs, if a self-driving truck can do the same job?
We’ll still need plenty of soldiers to make the machines work and coordinate all the details of getting supplies moved from one point to another.
That said, the Army may not need as many drivers in the foreseeable future.
That may be a good thing, though, as the Army continues to downsize and questions linger about the Army’s future.
And I have a feeling that trucks won’t be the only Army vehicles to be outfitted with self-driving technology. Robotic tanks and artillery vehicles, controlled by soldiers well behind the front lines, will probably be close behind.