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Is US developing ROBOTIC army? Self-driving military trucks tested in Texas

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  • The autonomous convoy was tested at Fort Hood, Texas earlier this month
  • Tests involved navigating hazards including traffic and pedestrians
  • GPS units fitted to each truck were used to plan and track their course
  • While laser radars scanned the road looking for obstructions and people
  • Other trucks were then programed to follow the leader in convoy

By Victoria Woollaston

PUBLISHED: 11:06 GMT, 4 February 2014 | UPDATED: 11:38 GMT, 4 February 2014

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Residents of Fort Hood in Texas were a part of military history earlier this month when a convoy of trucks drove through the small town.

Although this convoy looked like the usual stream of trucks that often passes through the area, there was one notable omission - drivers.

Each of the trucks in the convoy were part of an autonomous fleet of vehicles being tested by the U.S. Army, with the hope they will one day be deployed to urban battle areas.

The U.S. Army teamed up with Lockheed Martin to test a convoy of autonomous vehicles in Fort Hood, Texas, pictured. Each of the driverless tactical vehicles were tested on their abilities to navigate hazards and obstacles including road intersections, oncoming traffic, pedestrians and traffic circles

The U.S. Army teamed up with Lockheed Martin to test a convoy of autonomous vehicles in Fort Hood, Texas, pictured. Each of the driverless tactical vehicles were tested on their abilities to navigate hazards and obstacles including road intersections, oncoming traffic, pedestrians and traffic circles

HOW DO VEHICLES 'SEE' THE ROAD?

Called the Unmanned Mission Module, the technology used in the recent Fort Hood tests included a high performance LIDAR sensor - or laser radar. 

This remote sensing technology is capable of scanning the road ahead and measuring distances by illuminating a target with a laser, and analysing the light that is reflected.

The module is also fitted with a GPS receiver to plan, and track the convoy’s route.

Google's self-driving cars use similar sensors and technologies to navigate through towns and cities.

The demonstration was a joint project between the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Centre (TARDEC) and Lockheed Martin in Maryland.

Each of the driverless tactical vehicles were tested on their abilities to navigate hazards and obstacles including road intersections, oncoming traffic, stalled and passing vehicles, pedestrians and traffic circles in both urban and rural test areas.

The autonomous vehicles were part of the Army and Marine Corps’ Autonomous Mobility Appliqué System (AMAS) program, and the successful convoy was the final stage of the program’s Capabilities Advancement Demonstration.

The vehicles used in the recent Fort Hood tests were fitted with a high performance LIDAR sensor - or laser radar. This remote sensing technology is capable of scanning the road ahead and measuring distances by illuminating a target with a laser, and analysing the light that is reflected

The vehicles used in the recent Fort Hood tests were fitted with a high performance LIDAR sensor - or laser radar. This remote sensing technology is capable of scanning the road ahead and measuring distances by illuminating a target with a laser, and analysing the light that is reflected

The autonomous vehicles, pictured, were part of the Army and Marine Corps' Autonomous Mobility Appliqué System (AMAS) program, and the successful convoy was the final stage of the program's Capabilities Advancement Demonstration. Members of the Army and Lockheed Martin are shown monitoring the tests

The autonomous vehicles, pictured, were part of the Army and Marine Corps' Autonomous Mobility Appliqué System (AMAS) program, and the successful convoy was the final stage of the program's Capabilities Advancement Demonstration. Members of the Army and Lockheed Martin are shown monitoring the tests

This program was set up to add automated driving features to current tactical vehicles in the Army’s fleet.

Called the Unmanned Mission Module, the technology used in the vehicles included a high performance LIDAR sensor - or laser radar.

This remote sensing technology is capable of scanning the road ahead and measuring distances by illuminating a target with a laser, and analysing the light that is reflected.

The module is also fitted with a GPS receiver to plan, and track the convoy’s route, and all of this technology can be installed as a kit to ‘virtually any military vehicle’.

In the CAD demonstration, the kit was integrated onto the Army's M915 trucks and the Palletized Loading System (PLS) vehicle, pictured. Google's self-driving cars use similar sensors and technologies to navigate through towns and cities

In the CAD demonstration, the kit was integrated onto the Army's M915 trucks and the Palletized Loading System (PLS) vehicle, pictured. Google's self-driving cars use similar sensors and technologies to navigate through towns and cities

The vehicles were also fitted with a GPS receiver so members of the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) could plan, and track the convoy's route on handheld computers, pictured

The vehicles were also fitted with a GPS receiver so members of the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) could plan, and track the convoy's route on handheld computers, pictured

In the CAD demonstration, the kit was integrated onto the Army’s M915 trucks and the Palletized Loading System (PLS) vehicle.

‘The AMAS CAD hardware and software performed exactly as designed, and dealt successfully with all of the real-world obstacles that a real-world convoy would encounter,’ said David Simon, AMAS program manager for Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control.

‘It was very important that we had representation from the technology, acquisition and user bases, along with our industry partners, here at the CAD,’ added TARDEC technical manager Bernard Theisen.

'We are very pleased with the results of the demonstration, because it adds substantial weight to the Army’s determination to get robotic systems into the hands of the warfighter.'

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