Autonomous Vehicles – An Aproaching Reality

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Tesla recently announced that in a short period of time, vehicles will have full self-driving capability, but, according to a RAND Corp. expert there’s a more powerful force behind the development of autonomous-vehicle technology – armies around the world.

The military has a compelling case for moving convoys of vehicles through dangerous areas without putting soldiers at risk. This exact point motivates the military to perfect the same technologies that will eventually drive passenger vehicles down dangerous highways at greatly reduced risk to passengers.

“My vision is for army vehicles to have scalable autonomous capabilities,” said Matt Donohue, a portfolio director for U.S. Army, speaking to Army Technology Magazine. “For Army tactical vehicles, this means scalable autonomy from leader-follower to fully autonomous capable, including the ability to be loaded and unloaded by autonomous material handling equipment.”

According to, mining and farming companies also have compelling economic reasons to switch to driverless vehicles, and will benefit from development of vehicles and equipment that perform parallel tasks for the military.

Civillian cars seem close to follow the industry footsteps, Tesla’s announcement stated that a software upgrade which will occur soon is going to provide “Enhanced Autopilot” to vehicles already on the road.

The company also added that cars will not actually be able to drive themselves until regulators give their approval.

Observers warn that such approval will not come until the technology has been perfected and extensively road tested, which is where the military comes in. In RAND’s report,  the authors cite an example in which the GPS system crossed over from the military to the civillian sector.

According to Adam Hecktman, director of technology and innovation for Microsoft in Chicago, such moves are not uncommon. “You frequently see military technology become commercialized. They’re taking some existing technology and accelerating it into the market”.