Channel 19

Todd Dills

U.S. Army’s self-driving truck a long way from the action

| July 19, 2010

Check out the latest edition of the DTI, or Defense Technology International, journal, and you’ll get an electronic whiff of the latest experiment in a self-driving truck — this one from Lockheed Martin and steered by the company’s Convoy Active Safety Technology, or CAST, being employed on a few prototype U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center trucks on Ft. Hood, Texas. Like the VORAD systems on some commercial rigs on the roads today, the trucks use radar and various sensors to control themselves.

And hey, it turns out that when we’re not actually responsible for operating a vehicle moving at normal operating speeds, we can scan for roadside bombs with a 25 percent better rate of accuracy or detection — a big improvement, I’d say, but worth the $5.3 million of U.S. taxpayer monies have helped fund the project? There’s probably no better substitute/supplement than a couple good extra pairs of eyes out there — the potential to keep lives out of harm’s way, reducing risks, is what’s most exciting about it all, in the end.

In any case, automated supply convoys could be in Afghanistan’s future, to say nothing of where the tech might go in on-road situations in country. Hit the link above for more, but don’t expect to see any driver-less rig passing you on the right anytime soon. As a Wired story about the CAST technology noted, Lockheed plans to test the vehicle in live combat zones but it’s “not built for going off-road.” Might be a problem in more than a few places, no doubt.