JUST IN: Army 'Pressing Forward' With Autonomous Vehicle Transport-System, Official Says

By Josh Luckenbaugh

Army photo

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Army is developing an autonomous driving system that could prove vital to operating tactical vehicles in a contested environment, service officials said March 1.

Formerly known as the Leader-Follower program, the Autonomous Vehicle Transport-System will increase force protection and sustainment throughput of convoy operations, according to a presentation by the service’s project manager for force projection Kyle Bruner at the National Defense Industrial Association’s Tactical Wheeled Vehicle Conference.

The system will enable “independent maneuver forces to maintain a high operational tempo,” the presentation said.

The Army is "pressing forward" with the Autonomous Vehicle Transport-System, said Brig. Gen. Luke Peterson, the Army’s program executive officer for combat support and combat service support.

“We want to protect our soldiers on the battlefield, and one of the ways we can do that is take them out of some of the key formations where they are likely to be targeted,” such as resupply formations, Peterson at the conference.

The Army is taking “an incremental approach” with the system, Bruner said.

“What do you do in a full autonomous vehicle system where you are far away from your troops?” he said. “That is a challenge — we're not there yet, frankly. We're starting this incrementally with, ‘How do you teleoperate and reduce the number of soldiers in that formation?’”

The Autonomous Vehicle Transport-System will mature and “evolve over time” as the Army introduces additional capabilities, Bruner said. The system could potentially be operated from “an accompanying vehicle or something in the immediate area that's controlling those vehicles, and you can reduce the amount of troops in that formation,” he said.

“You can also sustain the delivery for longer periods of time, [because] you are not dealing with crew rest and fatigue that you would have with a lot of the drivers … so we see a lot of advantages in contested logistics” for the system, he said.

However, the Army must “maintain flexibility to either fully be able to drive with drivers in the traditional mode or reduce the number in that platform but still be within that convoy, or eventually work our way further away,” Bruner added, as the vehicles will likely be in a difficult, dynamic operating environment where opponents could have electronic warfare capabilities.

For the first increment of the system, the initial target platform is the M1075 Palletized Load System, which will eventually be replaced by the Army’s Common Tactical Truck. One of the desired characteristics for the Common Tactical Truck is active safety features, which will “form the basis” for introducing autonomy on that platform, Bruner said.

The Army completed an operational technical demonstration of the Autonomous Vehicle Transport-System in January, according to Bruner’s presentation. The service expects to release a request for proposals in the third quarter of fiscal year 2023 and issue a prototyping award in the fourth quarter of 2023 with the goal of fielding 410 systems by fiscal year 2029, Bruner said.

Peterson noted that the service still has a lot to figure out regarding autonomy. “We know that commercial industry is going to be key in helping us get to the right level of capability for our soldiers to be able to do … resupply in a contested logistics environment,” he said.


Topics: Land Forces

Comments (0)

Retype the CAPTCHA code from the image
Change the CAPTCHA codeSpeak the CAPTCHA code
Please enter the text displayed in the image.