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U.S. Army Convoy Goes Autonomous

The very idea of an autonomous vehicle used to seem like something out of a science fiction movie. That idea has to come fruition and then some with the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) and Lockheed Martin’s demonstration of a fully autonomous convoy.

“We are very pleased with the results of the demonstration, because it adds substantial weight to the Army’s determination to get robotic systems into the hands of the warfighter.”

The demonstration took place in early January at the Boaz Military Operations and Urban Terrain Site on Fort Hood, Texas. As part of the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps Autonomous Mobility Appliqué System (AMAS) program, the autonomous convoy was composed of a variety of different vehicles of different models, such as the M915 truck and the Palletized Load System (PLS) vehicle. The successful demonstration marked the completion of the AMAS program’s Capabilities Advancement Demonstration (CAD), which was aimed to remove the driver from the cab of a vehicle.

Autonomous Army Convoy

The U.S. Army Tank-Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) and Lockheed Martin’s autonomous convoy demonstration used the Palletized Loading System (PLS) vehicle and M915 truck. Lockheed Martin photo

During the demonstration, the autonomous convoy conducted a series of tests using driverless tactical vehicles. The vehicles maneuvered around hazards and obstacles, including road intersections, oncoming traffic, stalled and passing vehicles, pedestrians, and traffic circles. The environment of the test included both urban and rural areas. “We are very pleased with the results of the demonstration, because it adds substantial weight to the Army’s determination to get robotic systems into the hands of the warfighter,” said Bernard Theisen, TARDEC technical manager.

The hardware and software used in the demonstration were designed to automate driving on current tactical vehicles. The unmanned mission module used in the AMAS, included a high performance LIDAR seniors, a second GPS receiver, and additional algorithms. This kit can be installed in virtually any military vehicle. “The AMAS CAD hardware and software performed exactly as designed, and dealt successfully with all of the real-world obstacles that a real-world convoy would encounter,” said David Simon, AMAS program manager for Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control.

Representatives from Army Materiel Command (AMC), the Army Capabilities Integration Center (ARCIC), the Combined Arms Support Command (CASCOM), and TARDEC were present to witness the demonstration. “It was very important that we had representation from the technology, acquisition and user bases, along with our industry partners, here at the CAD,” said Theisen. The demonstration was jointly funded by ARCIC and Lockheed Martin.

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From Employee Accounts