A number of companies are working on autonomous driving technology and it appears the United States military is keeping a close tab on their developments.
As Bloomberg reports, the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering recently told members of Congress “We’re going to have self-driving vehicles in theater for the Army before we’ll have self-driving cars on the streets.” Michael Griffin went on to say autonomous military vehicles will use the same “core technologies” as autonomous passenger vehicles.
Autonomous Vehicles Could Prevent Casualties
During a hearing earlier this month, Griffin said 52 percent of casualties in combat zones come from military personnel who are delivering food, fuel and other equipment. If these people were replaced by autonomous driving technology, countless lives could be saved. As Griffin explained, “You’re in a very vulnerable position when you’re doing that kind of activity” so “If that can be done by an automated unmanned vehicle, with a relatively simple AI driving algorithm where I don’t have to worry about pedestrians and road signs and all of that, why wouldn’t I do that?”
The Iraq war, in particular, has been notorious for roadside bombs. These improvised explosive devices have seriously injured or killed a number of service people since the conflict began in 2003.
There’s no word on when autonomous military vehicles could become a common sight on battlefields but Griffin said the military “absolutely must leverage” the technology that has been developed in the private sector. This could be an uphill battle as thousands of Google employees recently protested the company’s involvement in Project Maven. The project is a joint venture with the Department of Defense that aims to develop artificial intelligence for military applications.