The Army Is Getting Driverless Vehicles Before the Public

While major companies race to get autonomous cars on the road, the U.S. Army already has a head start.

While major companies race to get autonomous cars on the road, the U.S. Army already has a head start. Ariana Drehsler/Getty Images

Sorry civilians, the army is getting into driverless vehicles before you.

The United States Army just announced that it will see autonomous combat trucks deployed to help soldiers avoid accidental casualties caused by driving, Axios reported. The test run occurred at Fort Bliss, the Army’s Texas post, where 10 autonomous trucks went through unmanned driving trials, with 60 more test trucks due to arrive at more military posts in the coming year.

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The Pentagon has already allocated another $3.7 billion for research that will cover “unmanned and autonomous technologies,” according to Axios.

The announcement of the military’s innovative progress comes about a year after Michael Griffin, the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, predicted that the U.S. Army will get driverless vehicles before cities do.

“We’re going to have self-driving vehicles in theater for the Army before we’ll have self-driving cars on the streets,” Griffin said last year. “But the core technologies will be the same.”

This news of headway comes at the heels of the tech and auto industries’ grim prospects of reaching open, autonomous roads anytime soon. Earlier this week, Uber’s chief scientist Raquel Urtasun predicted that the widespread use of self-driving cars is probably still decades away, pending regulations and other infrastructure factors.

Urtasun, who leads a group of researchers at Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group (ATG), said that the question of when AVs will actually be useful “is not clear yet.”

“To have it at scale is going to take a long time,” she added.

Similarly, Ford CEO Jim Hackett this week announced plans to scale back the automaker’s driverless technology research, citing that the company had “overestimated” their hype.

Autonomous programs will probably become more cautious in the coming years, thus slowing down the timeline of AVs going mainstream. One thing is for sure: Despite billions of dollars pumped into research and development by Silicon Valley already, the military has proven it can get there first.

The Army Is Getting Driverless Vehicles Before the Public