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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

Lockheed hits 55K miles with driverless trucks

Tesla might have grabbed the headlines the other week when Elon Musk announced an all-electric tractor trailer that will be loaded with self-driving capabilities, but Lockheed Martin also hit a milestone last month worth noting.

Lockheed announced last week that its Autonomous Mobility Applique System had logged more than 55,000 miles as part of an Army Extended Warfighter Experiment.

Soldiers and Lockheed personnel spent several months at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri and Fort Bliss in Texas putting the driverless technology through its paces.

The system works by adding on equipment like sensors, actuators and controls to tactical vehicles.

In one testing scenario, one truck is driven by a person while several other robotic trucks follow. Fully autonomous trucks also were tested.

Lockheed said the AMAS system reduces manpower needs and reduces soldiers’ exposure to the IEDs.

Among the tasks and challenges, the trucks had to work through oncoming and passing traffic, negotiating rights of way, barriers and obstacles, dynamic rerouting and pedestrian traffic.

"AMAS continues to prove itself as a valuable asset for our military by safely operating in complex environments," said Kathryn Hasse, Lockheed’s combat maneuver systems director. "We believe that AMAS is ready to move forward toward the ultimate goal of widespread fielding across multiple military applications."

Her last statement is what caught my eye. That will be a huge step but one that is surely coming.

I’m sure others are working on similar technologies but this Lockheed project reminds me of what an iRobot executive told me years ago. She said they were looking to do the mundane and dangerous.

That is why at the time they were building robotic vacuum cleaners and robots that could be used for disarming bombs. (Note: iRobot spun out its defense work in 2016 to help create Endeavor Robotics.)

Driving a military truck in a combat zone is both of those things at the same time – mundane and dangerous. It might not be as sexy as Tesla tractor trailer but it’s no less noteworthy and significant.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Dec 04, 2017 at 12:39 PM

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