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Autonomy experts from the Pentagon say that the most important military use of autonomy in the years ahead will be replacing the manned reconnaissance patrols that send troops into danger to scout out the enemy. “We really are pushing robots at the vanguard, front of our formations because, right now, commanders trade soldiers, their lives, for information. We can use robotics and autonomous systems to help reduce that,” said Robert Sadowski, the chief roboticist at the Army’s DEVCOM Ground Vehicle Systems Center.
However, there aren’t always as many autonomous vehicles as there are in the commercial sector. For instance, while light detection and ranging or LIDAR, are an essential aspect of commercial vehicle autonomy, on the battlefield, LIDAR means “the bad guys can see me too,” according to defenseone.com.
Cory Clothier, who directs the autonomous mobility team at engineering consultancy Stantec said that “what is going to lead the way is more campus-based logistics…There’s a use case that the technology can actually handle it now if it’s low speed and within a constrained environment.”
In the automotive industry today, bits and pieces of autonomy are creeping in the driving experience in what Jean-Charles Lede, an autonomy technology advisor at the Air Force Research Laboratory, described as “microservices.” “They are not waiting or designing brand new [autonomous] cars,” Lede said. “They are taking current cars and modifying them, whether it’s for testing or for operational use. You can’t rent a car today without having some kind of lane assist or, you know, blind-spot checking.”
The U.S. military can start deploying those microservices into systems now — so long as those systems have the open architectures the military wants in future gear.
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