The latest in army truck awesomeness from the US Tank Automotive Research, Development & Engineering Center (TARDEC) and Lockheed Martin makes real-life Transformers look plausible— their new Autonomous Mobility Appliqué System (AMAS) brings fully robotic functionality to the US military's largest land vehicles.
According to Defense-Update the Marine Corps 6×6 MTVR truck, Army M-915 trailer and the multi-steering, six-axle Palletized Loading System (PLS) truck in this convoy were programmed by soldiers and then sent along to drive around Fort Hood, Texas under completely autonomous operation. There's no remote control at work like in a Predator or Pointman bot.
The AMAS features LIDAR (laser to measure distance of objects) and multiple GPS receivers. The "autonomy" processor and decision-making system, known as a By-Wire/Active Safety Kit (BWASK) is integrated into all of the truck's systems. AMAS is being built around the US military's current motorpool for quick deployment and ease of cost.
They drive in town, they can drive off-road. They can pass other vehicles. They can avoid pedestrians. Or not. They make their own choices based on simple inputs from front-line soldiers. They're not equipped with weapons, yet, but when they are a set of processors, cameras, and memory banks will decide who to shoot and who to cover.
AMAS program manager for Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control David Simon was pleased with the performance his product put on. "The AMAS CAD [Capabilities Advancement Demonstration] hardware and software performed exactly as designed, and dealt successfully with all of the real-world obstacles that a real-world convoy would encounter."
Lockheed plans to up the ante later this year by testing out their system on the US military's Family of Medium Tactical Vehicle (FMTV) trucks, Heavy Equipment Transporter (HET), and 4×4 RG-31 MRAP. They're also planning to demonstrate autonomous mine clearing with a "standard counter-IED mine roller." I'm sure that will be a popular option among front-line warriors.
I started writing this article thinking about how great it is that ever-bigger and more capable machines can do dangerous work that humans don't want to. But after watching that video a couple times, I'm starting to realize that some terrifuckingfying real-life war drones will soon be just a few lines of code from becoming self-aware and reigning terror on our highways and In-N-Out burger drive-thrus as they please.
If I don't see some creative conspiracy theories in the comments here, color me disappointed.
Hat tip to Ilya!