back to article Unmanned, autonomous ROBOT TRUCK CONVOY 'drives though town'

The US Army says it has successfully conducted a test in which not just one but an entire convoy of unmanned, autonomous, robotized military lorries successfully drove through "urban areas" on their own without crashing into anything or running over any pedestrians. US Army robotised trucks. Credit: Lockheed Goddammit, Kowalski …

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Gold badge

Commuting sucks.

Where's my goddamned Johnny Cab?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Commuting sucks.

I take it that when they say they tested it in a 'town' , this a 'town' with more than 1 hovel and > 10 goats in Afghanistan?

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Bronze badge

Re: Commuting sucks.

They most likely tested it on one of the MOUT ranges at Fort Irwin, Fort Bliss/White Sands Missile Range, or Fort Polk.

For those of you that don't know, A MOUT range is a bunch of corrugated shipping containers vismodded to look like a town in most of the middle east, or its quick and dirty and looks like a bunch of containers. The good ones are generally as chaotically arranged as a place like Mazar-i-Sharif or Tal Afar as well. So I'm naturally curious as to how much marketing spin is being employed here and whether the robot HEMTT was limited to MSRs (Main Supply Routes, bigger roads) or if it could handle link routes and other smaller roads as well.

Personally, I'd really like to know how the motherfucker handles checkpoints without running over the security team. I don't especially want to get run over by the robot truck. After nearly being run over by people driving LMTVs and HEMTTs it does make me nervous.

Plus no robot's gonna be able to respond with its guidance system blasted out or if something irregular happens that requires a Soldier's judgement and experience to make the correct call on. So the drivers will still be there in some form to take over control of the convoy and also in smaller vehicles to run security on the convoy, but it will free up a number of the MPs and Infantrymen who generally provide convoy security nowadays. If the Army does it correctly, which is a big if.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Commuting sucks.

Ft. Hood Texas. One way something like this could be used is if the autonomy frees up the driver to instead scan for threats.

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Re: Commuting sucks.

There are also MOUT sites built like urban Germany, back from the Cold War days.

Complete with storm drain systems.

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If they want the drivers out of the cabs

why did they build cabs on them?

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Re: If they want the drivers out of the cabs

Because they retrofitted the technology to existing vehicles? Why would they build brand new vehicles for a concept that they hadn't proven yet?

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Re: If they want the drivers out of the cabs

Union rules

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Re: If they want the drivers out of the cabs

And because, if there is no cab, then they have to be autonomous all the time (driving around camp etc), not just for the more routable journey between bases in the field.

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Making it practical

"... and/or peppered by enemy fire in ambushes ..."

Why they'll fire, it'd be as simple for the enemies to stand up and wave hands to stop the convoy. The only tough task remaining would be blowing up the gates of the trucks.

So, as a true patriot, I suggest that the vehicle must have some self-defense capabilities as well. Bazooka anyone ... ?

Go back to your hole ... you villager !

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Silver badge

Re: Making it practical

"Go back to your hole ... you villager !"

<chik-chuk> 'You have 20 seconds to comply!'

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Bronze badge

Re: 'You have 20 seconds to comply!'

"Or there will be..... trouble."

(I know, I know, different characters: ED209 / Murphy.)

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To be fair

the military has a harder job than Google. Nobody is (I hope) working hard to find ways to send a convoy of Google cars over a cliff.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: To be fair

Google cars going over a cliff? What a spiffing idea. Then they might stop slurping our data and everything else. Google has got far too powerful and needs dismembering.

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Re: To be fair

" Nobody is (I hope) working hard to find ways to send a convoy of Google cars over a cliff."

Although it has been achieved on at least one occasion

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Happy

"... nobody wants to be colonel of a load of robot trucks."

I do !!

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Happy

Re: "... nobody wants to be colonel of a load of robot trucks."

I understand. But that's exactly one of the reasons why you aren't a colonel.

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Re: "... nobody wants to be colonel of a load of robot trucks."

...and the Colonel couldn't tell whether being in charge of a fleet of robo-trucks would be a great feather in his cap, or a terrible, terrible black eye.

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Unhappy

Re: "... nobody wants to be colonel of a load of robot trucks."

There are so many reasons.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "... nobody wants to be colonel of a load of robot trucks."

I understand. But that's exactly one of the reasons why you aren't a colonel.

Given that, I think, the US airforce are getting annoyed that their Army are now "flying" drones .... and worse, using non-officers as "pilots" then maybe its a chance for payback time with the USAF starting to ramp up squadrons of self-drive trucks! So if not Colonel then how abaou Squardron leader?

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Bronze badge

Re: "... nobody wants to be colonel of a load of robot trucks."

Although of course the USAF do not use "squadron leader" and brand their flyboys uniformly (well similarly) with the doughboys I believe

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "... nobody wants to be colonel of a load of robot trucks."

"and the Colonel couldn't tell whether being in charge of a fleet of robo-trucks would be a great feather in his cap, or a terrible, terrible black eye."

So he asked Colonel Korn and found out.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "... nobody wants to be colonel of a load of robot trucks."

Damn! Now I'll have to withdraw _my_ comment!

Some might argue "What if _everyone_ beaten to the post withdrew their comment?" to which I would have to reply "Then I'd be a damn fool not to!"

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Go

Optimal solution?

I seems to me it would be a lot more effective to use remote drivers, the way they pilot drones. A real mind to cope with all the complexities of the road in a battlezone, but no exposure to a real human being. The autonomous system could serve as a backup in the case of jamming.

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Silver badge

Re: Optimal solution?

Surely the optimal solution is to stop having wars?

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Re: Optimal solution?

Surely the optimal solution is to stop having wars?

Sorry, not a financially viable option, do you know how great wars are for the gravy train.

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Re: Optimal solution?

Quote: 'I seems to me it would be a lot more effective to use remote drivers, the way they pilot drones.'

I would suspect they can do this anyway, as it would be simple to implement once you have the rest of the autonomous processes in place. And would be useful as a backup for things where the truck isn't sure what to do, or some part of the autonomous system breaks down.

But I suspect there would be too many issues for this remote driver mode to be used under normal circumstances. Couple of thinks I can think of :

1. Latency. With drones not really an issue, as you're flying through empty space (hopefully), so no pedestrians suddenly jumping out in front of you. For anything requiring quick reflexes, by the time a remote driver had received the images/warning, and responded to it, it would already be too late.

2. Comms: With a drone, you're up in the air, so would have line of site for a lot of the time, and then satellites once beyond the horizon. A truck on the other hand would be in valleys, driving through tunnels, under bridges etc. At which point your going to loose comms, so for a remote driven vehicle, you'd still need to have a fully autonomous mode for those situations, and if you have full autonomy, not really much point have a remote driver.

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Silver badge

Re: Optimal solution?

With drones in the air, they can fly escort on convoys and look out for such things as well as providing commlinks to drivers elsewhere. Why be dependent on just one set of inputs in one location?

OTOH the trucks must be capable of autonomous operation if cut off from comms.

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Silver badge

Re: Optimal solution?

Or you could still have the wars but both sides have the drones in simulator mode.

Ultimately you could just play WoW instead

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Thumb Down

The trucks navigate via GPS - OMG, supply trains for any enemy clever enough to push the on switch on a GPS spoofer.

Even Iran has GPS subversion technology these days...

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/12/15/us_spy_drone_gps_spoofing/

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Anonymous Coward

Or just build temporary brick walls diverting the convoy to their inventory :)

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P_0

Or just build temporary brick walls diverting the convoy to their inventory :)

And then the Reaper drones circling above can zero in on the enemy's inventory location. Boom! Bye-bye enemy weapon stockpile.

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Anonymous Coward

Or, they can just block the trucks from all the sides, waiting for the needed troops to die of scarcity (arms and food).

I will stop here as I am feeling sick now. You cannot keep thinking that so much ammunition will be sent just relying on retaliation threats.

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Sir

"Or just build temporary brick walls"

no need, just a stack of cardboard boxes would do

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Re: Sir

>supply trains for any enemy clever enough to push the on switch on a GPS spoofer

There aretechniques for coping with that situation. Basically, the system uses GPS or GLONASS, but as it does so it builds an 'atlas' of other radio (across a range of frequencies) sources, such as civilian broadcast towers which it can fall back on should someone try and spoof the GPS.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/07/02/bae_navsop/

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Anonymous Coward

"An Eye for a Tyre"

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I want robotic cars.

Seriously, why the hell am I still driving my car instead of the other way around?

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Trollface

Re: I want robotic cars.

My car drives me nuts sometimes. Those trucks can sure improve.

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Coat

Re: I want robotic cars.

The steering wheel in the top of my pants drives me nuts.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I want robotic cars.

No need to get your coat. Someone had to say it!

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They all come with a robotic arm

So they can pay the Dartford crossing

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Silver badge

Re: They all come with a robotic arm

"So they can pay the Dartford crossing"

NOT for much longer though !

http://www.highways.gov.uk/our-road-network/managing-our-roads/improving-our-network/the-dartford-thurrock-river-crossing/

The Dartford - Thurrock River Crossing

Intro­duc­tion of remote payment

From Octo­ber 2014 there will be changes to how you pay to use the Dart­ford cross­ing. You will no longer stop at the cross­ing bar­ri­ers to pay the charge, instead pay­ment will be made:

online

via text

on the phone

at retail outlets

So they'll need robot fingers to punch the phone ( not whilst driving!)

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Facepalm

Re: They all come with a robotic arm

Oh, nice. And this will work for tourists how, exactly? What happens if the battery in your phone is flat?

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Terminator

Military?

This mil spec stuff trickles (dribbles) down plebwise soon enough and then all lorry drivers everywhere will and can look for work elsewhere. The fallout should be interesting. Roadside diners will tumbleweed away. Hmm, maybe even embed a power strip in the highway so the convoy never need stop until destination reached. They best perfect organ cloning quickly because it would be fun to see the next hundred years play out.

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Re: Military?

So, a bit like a train then?

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Silver badge

Re: Military?

Yes. Vehicle drivers of all types are a doomed breed, they'll go the way of lamplighters and switchboard operators within the next decade or two.

I'm not entirely sure that "fun" is how I'd describe the likely events the next 100 years, but I agree it'll be interesting. What will humans do the day robots and computers do everything better, faster and cheaper than a human can?

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Re: Military?

>The fallout should be interesting. Roadside diners will tumbleweed away.

We've seen this before, in the UK. Staging Inns, placed along routes to provide fresh horses for coaches suffered as railways were developed.

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Joke

Re: Military?

all lorry drivers everywhere will and can look for work elsewhere.

on the positive side serial killing would cease to be a problem.

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Pirate

Must be a SLOW NEWS DAY

Lazy columnist

this is just a rehash of an earlier story already done on this site "2 Days ago"

http://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/1/2014/02/01/us_army_tests_alldrone_supply_train/

so in all fairness here was my post

quote

""

Buy shares in Military Supply companeys

Jihadist / insurgents with RPG + loads of reloads take out the vehicle wheels convoy is stopped until its repaired

others scatter loads of IED devices to hinder the repair/recovery

think the convoy owner ( US military )would abandon the convoy as the cost of recovery in $$$ and lives outweighs the risk.

Jihadist loot convoy end result is US military feed and supply the Jihadist / insurgents

The Future of Your US TAX payer Dollar

icon indicates IED Minefield ahead ""

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Must be a SLOW NEWS DAY @dorsetknob

"Lazy columnist"

So says the guy who's had two 10 minute chances to correct the lack of capitalisation, full stops and the misspelling of companies.

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