The United States Army is taking another step toward developing autonomous trucks this month when it tests them on a Michigan highway.
The test, the first on a public road, will feature only flatbed trucks, but the technology could eventually be used in other military vehicles and could help protect troops on the battlefield.
As with the many tests of driverless cars, the trucks will have sensors to stay on course and communicate with one another. Also, like current driverless car efforts, the Army’s test will still see a human behind the wheel just in case something goes wrong.
“In order for automated vehicles to work and work correctly and work safely, that automated vehicle needs to talk very fast, sending data back and forth, first to the vehicles around it,” said Doug Halleaux, public affairs officer for the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) in an interview with the Times Herald newspaper.
One potential hurdle the test will have to overcome is crossing a steel girder bridge called the Blue Water Bridge. Researchers say the steel could present a challenge to the radar readings, possibly confusing the autonomous system.
The push for autonomous military vehicles stems from the number of deadly attacks on U.S. military convoys in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Michigan highway will remain open to normal traffic during the testing.