The Pentagon’s goal of having thousands of driverless military vehicles for use in combat zones and supply missions is closer to becoming reality as Oshkosh Corp. and others develop the technology aimed at keeping troops out of harm’s way.
This week, Oshkosh is displaying some of its autonomous vehicle technology — such as sensors and computer systems that can control driverless trucks — at a trade show in Orlando, Fla., sponsored by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.
The truck manufacturer is working with the U.S. Office of Naval Research to produce an unmanned vehicle that would be used by the Marines Corps in supply-line convoys, including trips into combat zones.
Ground-penetrating radar and other mine detection systems are being incorporated into the vehicle to counter the threat of roadside bombs that have killed many troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Pentagon wants the unmanned vehicles, often at the front of a convoy, to detect — or absorb the damage from — improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, saving the lives of troops in vehicles that follow. That kind of capability is more important than just having a driverless truck that can cover long distances and never gets tired.
Packed with radar, lasers and cameras that feed information to computers equipped with navigational software, the vehicles must make quick decisions in moving traffic, discerning what’s an obstacle in the road and what’s something a truck can easily pass over.