The U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center is using autonomous Cushman Shuttles—basically golf carts—to drive wounded soldiers to and from the hospital in an effort to get data on autonomobile technology, which the Army later intends to use on the battlefield, Automotive News reports.
In Fort Bragg, North Carolina, quite a few Army soldiers have been missing their doctors’ appointments because of traffic and poor parking arrangements. Since the appointments can cost up to five grand, these missed appointments have created a “huge cost” for the Womack Army Medical Center, as Edward Straub, who manages the Army’s Applied Robotics for Installations and Base Operations program, explained.
So the Army is using Cushman Shuttles like the one shown above to drive wounded soldiers a half a mile from their barracks to the hospital. Right now, there’s a human behind the wheel, but by this fall, the Cushmans could be driving themselves with a supervisor on board, and then by late 2017 or early 18, they should be fully autonomous, Straub told the news site.
They’ll be driving on roads, sidewalks and parking lots, and it’s this variety in driving surface and lack of traffic signals, implied Straub, that makes this autonomous transportation project unique and beneficial to autonomobile research.
Automotive News says the U.S. Army is developing these autonomous carts for two main reasons. First, they want to “reduce the amount of money the Army spends on its fixed operations,” and second, they think the tech could eventually “be used as the building blocks for automated battlefield vehicles.”
Straub told the news site: “Our ultimate objective is to get the best technology into the hands of the war fighter in the battlefield.”
It will be interesting to see how this program progresses, and how those autonomous carts do carrying around some of America’s most precious cargo.