For a while there we were under the impression that Mercedes Benz was the leader in autonomous vehicle technology. Its new S-class is the closest any manufacturer has ever come to producing a vehicle that drives itself.
Turns out we were wrong. While we were gawking at the abilities of the S-class, the US Army was busy with something way, way more impressive.
The US Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Centre and Lockheed Martin designed and built a range of autonomous battlefield vehicles.
The Army’s autonomous fleet consists of a Marine Corps 6×6 truck, a M-915 trailer and a six-axle Palletised Loading System. These vehicles recently completed a supervised drive around a military based. They are also capable of driving off the beaten path if the occasion demands it.
These vehicles make use of lasers and GPS receivers to get around or over obstacles. It also has a decision-making system, so it can even think for itself. That should come in handy on an actual battlefield where cold, calculated decisions are often necessary. Autonomous vehicles could also spell the end of soldiers being used on the front-line.
On the other hand, the artificial intelligence programmed into these kinds of vehicles is exactly what led to the SkyNet war in the popular film series, The Terminator.
Lockheed is already planning the next phase of this project. It plans to test this system in the Army’s medium-sized trucks, transporters and mine clearing vehicles.
Below is a video of the three leviathans driving around autonomously.