The military helped jump-start today's commercial AV efforts, most notably through competitions in 2004, 2005 and 2007 sponsored by its r&d arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA.
One of the most memorable DARPA entries was a behemoth called TerraMax, a driverless ground vehicle designed by Oshkosh Trucks, now Oshkosh Defense.
Oshkosh Defense has sidelined its efforts around TerraMax technologies in favor of the Army's new autonomous initiative called Expedient Leader-Follower.
Expedient Leader-Follower is a program where convoys are assembled that consist of one vehicle with a driver followed by driverless vehicles. It's part of the larger Autonomous Resupply Program at the U.S. Army CCDC Ground Vehicle Systems Center.
Theisen, who manages the Expedient Leader-Follower program, says the primary purpose of autonomous technology in convoys is to reduce the number of people operating tactical vehicles and limit exposure time to a potential attack.
The Army plans to issue 30 "optionally manned" vehicles to Fort Polk, La., in September for testing, and 30 will go to Fort Sill, Okla., in January, he said.
"The vehicles that we are going to be issuing will have two robotic functions," Theisen said. "The first one is what we call the teleoperation, where the commander can remotely control the motion of the vehicle from a remote location. The second mode is leader-follower, where vehicles robotically follow the first vehicle, in which there will be nobody in those follower vehicles."