If your worst nightmare includes driverless military machines roaming the landscape then you are either John Connor or just beginning to learn about Lockheed Martin’s robotic tactical vehicles.
A couple of years ago, October 2012 to be precise, Lockheed Martin received an $11 million contract for the development, integration and testing of something called the Autonomous Mobility Appliqué System (AMAS). This is a multiplatform kit that integrates low-cost sensors and control systems onto U.S. Army and Marine Corps tactical vehicles to help military drivers or to even make the convoys they drive completely autonomous.
AMAS reduces the dangers of driving in a combat zone by giving drivers an automated option to alert, stop and adjust, or take full control under user supervision.
Lockheed Martin has delivered on much of the promise of the AMAS technology as part of its Convoy Active Safety Technology (CAST) program. This program applied advanced leader/follower autonomy to multiple tactical vehicle types often used in military convoys.
According to Lockheed, the kit was designed from the beginning to be low-cost and essentially platform-independent. Users appreciated the system’s simple, single-button activation and were using the system with as little as an hour’s training.
Following hot on the heels of all of the other robot overlord acronyms, the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) tested the CAST vehicles under a variety of combat conditions and demonstrated that the system should save lives by improving both safety and security.
The AMAS program intends to demonstrate the system across eight vehicle types. AMAS does not interfere with drivers who choose to operate their vehicle manually. It adds a sensing and control function that alerts users and so they can rapidly react to safety threats. Many of the algorithms on AMAS also control Lockheed Martin’s Squad Mission Support System unmanned ground vehicle, which was recently used by soldiers in Afghanistan.
Now, Lockheed Martin can work on the contract, awarded by the Department of Defense through its Other Transaction Agreement with the Robotics Technology Consortium, though 2014. This may, or may not make you feel safer about robot cars, but at least it wasn’t designed by Google.