Lockheed Martin has announced that it has demonstrated the capability of having a convoy made of multiple types of vehicles go from one place to the other and pass what the company calls “real world” obstacles like passing vehicles, other cars, traffic circles, intersections and others. The test was part of the AMA program of the U.S Army and Marine Corps (AMAS = Autonomous Mobility Appliqué System program).
AMAS is a set of software and hardware tools that include a LIDAR sensor (a similar technology used in the Google self-driving car, $70000 each), GPS receivers and of course, a program that is really the “brains” and is in charge of piloting and evaluating actions. For the purposes of the demonstration, M915 Army trucks and Palletized Loading System (PLS) vehicles were equipped with the AMAS system and sent on a test road trip. These are two very common vehicles in the U.S military fleet.
Obviously, test was a success or Lockheed Martin would not emit a press release. However, keep in mind that there is a long way between this to having land-vehicle like these piloted automatically in the battlefield. Unlike aerial drones/unmanned aircrafts, land vehicles are much more susceptible to enemy attacks and guerilla warfare, where flying robots benefit of the massive superiority of the Air Force, combined with the lack of attack capabilities for most current active adversaries who are mostly low-tech.
However, if efficient force-protection measures could be put in place, automated system like these could not only alleviate the risk to soldiers, but it could also bolster the efficiency of the logistics which remains a key aspect of modern conflicts. With automated convoys, missions could also be planned based on updated reconnaissance data and executed at night under the cover of darkness using only infra-red and GPS data. The potential is huge, but much work and testing needs to be done before AMAS gets deployed in the field.
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