The day when drivers have to risk their lives transporting supplies through warzones might well be at an end. Today, defense contractor Lockheed Martin announced that it has completed its tests on a new line of automated convoy; tests which could well make humanized transportation in times of war completely obsolete. In other words, they're basically making robotic trucks.
The tests were carried out as part of the United States Army and Marine Corps Autonomous Mobility Appliqué system installation. The aforementioned program (henceforth referred to as AMAS), was absolutely integral in the tests, allowing the vehicles to successfully navigate through a wide array of obstacles which would likely be encountered in a real-world urban warzone. According to Lockheed Martin's AMAS Program Manager David Simon, the AMAS software and applications were "executed as perfectly as they were designed," driving as well in the urban conditions as a human driver would have - in some cases, perhaps even better.
The hardware itself for these mechanized trucks doesn't look anything special - and indeed, it really isn't. It's pretty much basic moving parts and mechanical equipment. It's in the software that Lockheed Martin's efforts really shine through. AMAS is effectively the most advanced operating platform of its kind; the very best the combined efforts of the military and aerospace industry has to offer. It guides the vehicles using a combination of a high-tech LIDAR, a laser-based guidance system, a GPS received, and a series of advanced algorithms that help it map out the vehicle's surroundings.
What's more, this application can be integrated into virtually any military ground vehicle with minimal effort.
I don't think I really need to explain what makes this whole thing so exciting. With a little bit more work (the technology, while revolutionary, isn't quite ready for field deployment yet), we could actually be seeing true mechanized armies within the decade. Imagine it: a convoy of automated troop transports show up on the battlefield, but within them is neither soldiers nor equipment. Instead, when their doors open, armed machines in the vein of Big Dog or Cheetah come pouring out, all of them combat ready.
Did I say exciting? I think, perhaps that the word I'm actually looking for here is "absolutely terrifying." I'm aware mechanization is something the military's been flirting with for years now, but to see us so close to actually achieving it kind of throws things into perspective a bit, now? See, robots don't get tired, or require ordinary supply lines. They don't suffer from low morale, or risk disobedience or defection. What's more, if a robot falls, it's easily replaced - they're expendable.
In short, they're the perfect soldiers.
Of course, such a future is still a fair way off. Fully mechanized armies might be possible within a decade, but that doesn't mean they're likely. AI limitations, mobility concerns, and manufacturing expenses represent considerable hurdles for the introduction of fully robotic war-machines, both in the long and short-term. That doesn't mean it isn't going to happen, either: just as robots will gradually find their way into larger roles in the workplace, so too will they start to find their way to the battlefield.
It's difficult to say how warfare might change with the introduction of such technology - and it's certainly not something I'm particularly qualified to speak about. In any case, we're getting a bit off track, and I think I've rambled enough for today. Long story short, Lockheed Martin has created robotic trucks; troop transports and supply convoys might soon be automated, and we might pretty soon be seeing robots gradually replacing soldiers on the battlefield, shedding oil instead of blood. Let's just hope they can be controlled, yeah?