‘Follow the leader’ technology is being used to develop a fleet of autonomous trucks for the Australian Army, with a series of road trials now complete.
The $3.5 million project uses modified Land 121 40M cargo trucks, equipped with autonomous leader-follower vehicle technology.
Defence industry minister Melissa Price issued a statement on Thursday saying the ‘disruptive technologies’ in robot and autonomous systems development would give the ADF a ‘marked advantage’ on the modern battlefield. She added that these technological advancements were vital for meeting future operational challenges, and for Defence’s role in providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
“The completion of this assessment within one year of the allocation of the funding demonstrates the strong industry and Defence partnerships in experimentation, prototyping and exploration of autonomous vehicle and new technologies,” Price said.
The autonomous truck project is being developed under a contract between Deakin University’s Institute for Intelligent Systems Research and Innovation (IISRI) and the Army’s Robotic and Autonomous Systems Implementation and Coordination Office (RICO).
Defence recently completed trialling a five-vehicle convoy from the project for two weeks in Monegeetta, Victoria, and work with the Australian Road Research Board continues on the possibility of capability testing on public roads. Extra refinement, performance enhancement and understanding of road rules will be required before the trial can progress to this stage.
“There are a number of technical and regulatory challenges to address to get these platforms into common use. The ongoing efforts will enable Army to navigate these challenges,” Price said.
“The completion of this assessment within one year of the allocation of the funding demonstrates the strong industry and Defence partnerships in experimentation, prototyping and exploration of autonomous vehicle and new technologies,” she added.