Autonomous Vehicle Technology May Improve Safety for U.S. Army Convoys

“The Army is fascinated by autonomous technology because if they’ll reduce the number of soldiers needed to run a convoy, they’ll keep soldiers safe,” said Shawn McKay. A minimally manned Army convoy put 28 percent fewer soldiers in danger compared to current practices. A partially unmanned convoy would put 37 percent fewer soldiers in danger, and a completely autonomous convoy would put 78 percent fewer soldiers in danger.

The technology to form a military convoy fully autonomous doesn’t exist yet. McKay said a part of the challenge for the military is that current automated technology remains limited and has mainly been tested in settings with well-manicured infrastructure, including standardized road markings and signs. Once you have a convoy of several vehicles driving autonomously and one-halt thanks to an obstacle the autonomous system cannot handle, you’ve got a situation where the convoy becomes vulnerable.

The study recommends the military implement the minimally manned concept as a necessary bridging strategy to realize the partially unmanned capability. the military also should develop clear and practical technical requirements to scale back key development risks, like from cyberattacks. The Army will prepare accurate assessments of system readiness and also the risks related to implementation before the military is prepared.