The US Military Announces Plans to Acquire Self-Driving Tanks

United States (Sputnik) – The US Army is set to drive a convoy of autonomous tractor-trailers along the Interstate 69 highway in Michigan next week, in the first step toward driverless military vehicles.

The Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development, and Engineering Center (TARDEC) announced on Thursday that it has teamed up with Michigan Department of Transportation to test vehicles fitted with Car-2-X communication technology on a public highway.

The technology, first deployed inside the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class, allows cars to wirelessly “talk” with each other, signaling up-to-date information about traffic jams, oncoming cars, and accidents.

Army tanks and jeeps will drive along the route that will include six roadside sensors. Those can also communicate with the vehicles and say, for instance, how many non-military cars have drove by a checkpoint in the past 24 hours.

Rusting T-62 Soviet battle tanks sit in a battle tank graveyard, out of commission, no longer able to do battle after being discarded by Russian and Afghan forces at the end of the Soviet-Afghan war in the late 1980Õs, May 19, 2010, Kandahar, Afghanistan. The T-62 was manufactured between 1961 and 1975 replacing the T-55 and serving as the Soviets main battle tank during the Soviet-Afghan war. Numerous amounts of discarded   heavy warfare machinery left behind by Russian forces can be found rotting away in the vast empty fields of Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kenny Holston)(Released)

Rusting T-62 Soviet battle tanks sit in a battle tank graveyard, out of commission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kenny Holston)(Released)

Human drivers will be at the wheel of each vehicle, due to current road laws, but the data gathered from the tests will help vehicles sense potential obstacles, such as curves in the road or lane closures. This can be used to further improve the self-driving system.

It is yet unclear when The Army plans to deploy fully autonomous military vehicles. Doug Halleaux, public affairs officer for TARDEC, said that in the next few years he hopes to test platooning, where one lead truck controls the speed and direction of other vehicles behind it.

Self-driving trucks could significantly transform the way The US Army operates in hostile locations like Afghanistan. Using them is a good way to free up personnel for other missions and prevent dangerous situations for soldiers or UN peacekeepers, as road bombs and attacks on vehicles are commonplace in war zones.

US military is keen on integrating more automated features in vehicles, which is worrisome considering all the harm caused by drone strikes in the Middle East. Hopefully, the technology will eventually become a tool for saving lives rather than destruction.


This report prepared by Sputnik News.