This summer, the U.S. army is taking its next steps towards instituting autonomous military vehicles by dispatching a convoy of self-driving trucks on a highway in Michigan to test vehicle-to-infrastructure technology, Automotive News reports. That’s right: huge, self-driving trucks will be driving on public roads.
We’ve already shown you the U.S. army’s self-driving trucks. They’re badass and really intimidating. And they make tons of sense considering how many man-hours are spent transporting equipment day and night, particularly in war zones, as Paul Rogers, director of the Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and engineering told Automotive News:
One vehicle drives and a number of vehicles can follow... You won’t need as many drivers. You see commercial truck operators trying similar platooning projects at highway speeds
The big test comes this summer, when a convoy of at least four trucks will barrel down I69 in Michigan, transmitting their speed and location to roadside transponders which, according to Automotive News, have a range of 300 meters and cost over five grand each.
The transponders, in turn, will communicate things like lane closures and speed limits to the rigs. That information, along with info obtained via the trucks’ $175,000 worth of radars, cameras and computers, aim to help the convoy navigate to its destination without hiccups.
While 175 large sounds like a lot of cash, Rogers mentioned to Automotive News that the equipment could cost closer to 20 Gs when bought en masse, which could be the direction the Army is headed, as a successful run this summer would give them all the more reason to retrofit their current fleet.
It’s exciting to see the military get into vehicle-to-infrastructure technology. They’re a huge player with lots of money and plenty potential for innovation, so they could help expedite the auto industry’s plight towards autonomy.
But as exciting as it is, I’ll keep my eyes wide open when driving on I69 this summer just to be safe.