The Leader In The Self-Driving Vehicle Race Isn’t Uber Or Tesla: It’s The Pentagon

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With all of the hype about autonomous driving focused on companies like Uber and Tesla, one big name has been left off the list of consideration in the public spotlight: the United States Government. And, it turns out with companies like Uber seeing self-driving fatalities causing major pushback in implementation of public testing, the government is the one leading the self-driving race.

Monday morning Bloomberg reported that the Pentagon could be the first to win the race to implement useful autonomous driving. Bloomberg reported:

Forget Uber, Waymo and Tesla: the next big name in self-driving vehicles could be the Pentagon.

“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, the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, told lawmakers at a hearing on Capitol Hill this month. “But the core technologies will be the same.”

The implementation of autonomous driving on the battlefield is an easier landscape to work with than roadways, as there are no traffic lights or road signs to worry about if you’re just trying to just get supplies from point A to point B.

This makes autonomous vehicles a potentially lifesaving and wildly good idea for war zones – the delivering of things like medical supplies and food on the battlefield are a perfect fit:

The stakes for the military are high. According to Griffin, 52 percent of casualties in combat zones can been attributed to military personnel delivering food, fuel and other logistics. Removing people from that equation with systems run on artificial intelligence could reduce injuries and deaths significantly, he added.

“You’re in a very vulnerable position when you’re doing that kind of activity,” Griffin said. “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?”

On top of that, the federal government has a much larger budget than any one company working on self-driving. The Pentagon’s budget comes in around $700 billion:

With an annual budget of almost $700 billion, the Pentagon can afford to aggressively pursue autonomous vehicle technology well beyond fuel and food delivery trucks. The Army, for instance, is pushing forward with efforts to develop unmanned tanks and smarter vehicles for bomb disarmament, though many of those technologies will be remote-controlled, not autonomous.

Major Alan L. Stephens, an officer at the Mounted Requirements Division of the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence in Georgia, said in December that the Army wants to start testing light, fast remote-controlled tanks with the same firepower as the current 70-plus-ton manned M1 Abrams tank within the next five years.

BAE Systems Plc, the maker of the Army’s manned Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle, also makes unmanned vehicles known as the Ironclad and the Armed Robotic Combat Vehicle. The Ironclad, which looks like a miniature tank missing a gun turret, is expected to have roles in reconnaissance, evacuations of injured personnel and explosive ordnance disposal, according to the London-based company’s website.

…The Navy is also already looking into unmanned underwater vessels, with companies like Lockheed and Boeing competing for these contracts:

Offshore, the Navy is seeking help developing technology for the next generation of large and extra-large unmanned underwater vehicles to incorporate artificial intelligence so they can handle navigation hazards such as deep-draft commercial ship traffic, fishing activities, marine mammals and prospecting for oil, gas or minerals. Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing Co., the largest and second-largest U.S. contractors, are competing on the program, with a critical design review scheduled for December.

Full article: The Leader In The Self-Driving Vehicle Race Isn’t Uber Or Tesla: It’s The Pentagon (ZeroHedge)

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