Army testing driverless vehicles on public roads for first time

A convoy of driverless Army trucks makes its way through the Department of Energy's Savannah River Site in South Carolina, May 29, 2014. (Photo by Terrance Bell)

The US Army is testing technologies in Michigan that may lead to driverless military vehicles.

According to The Detroit News, the US Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) has been testing dedicated short-range communications devices in closed environments and is now ready to hit the road. Choosing a 21-stretch in St. Clair and Lapeer counties.

“In the future, when we’re integrating more automated features in vehicles, we need to make sure they operate on public roadways,” said TARDEC PAO Doug Halleaux. “This is the first step in getting to that point.”

The stretch of roadway was chosen because of its proximity to TARDEC’s headquarters as well as already-connected infrastructure sensors supplied by the Michigan Department of Transportation.

A four-vehicle convoy will be used, with drivers in control at all times and data being collected during the trip that will help the vehicle-mounted sensors “learn” to sense obstacles and hazards.

The US Army has no specific timeline in which they are planning to deploy fully-autonomous vehicles, but Halleaux says there are plans for TARDEC to expand testing capabilities in concepts such as “platooning” , where the lead truck controls the speed and direction of the trucks behind it.

In addition, the automated features could help improve soldier safety on longer operations.

The US Army held informational meetings last month to explain to locals what will be happening on the roads.

“We want to be good neighbors on the roadways,” Halleaux said.

TARDEC director Paul Rogers said in a statement that “the safety and force protection potential with automated driving may fundamentally change the way we as an Army approach logistics and transportation.”

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  • Andy Wolf

    Andy Wolf is an Appalachian native who spent much of his youth and young adulthood overseas in search of combat, riches, and adventure- accruing decades of experience in military, corporate, first responder, journalistic and advisory roles. He resides in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains with his K9 companion, Kiki.

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