Military innovation often parallels civilian technology, and we can see this in our cars today. Many new vehicles come equipped with HUD, night vision, and autopilot functions in 2014, proving military technology has plenty of value off the battlefield.
The latest military breakthrough illustrates a similar trend,t as a company called Torc Robotics has developed an autonomous military vehicle called the Ground Unmanned Support Surrogate, or GUSS for short. Torc’s latest prototype comes on the heels of civilian self-drivers like Google’s autonomous car.
GUSS is based off the Polaris MVRS700 6×6 off-roader, but Torc’s robotic hardware gives the vehicle free reign in a variety of conditions such as harsh weather, rough terrain, and obstacle-ridden paths.
The 1800-pound GUSS can only go 5 mph at the moment, but its benefits could be boundless on the battlefield.
The Marine Corps’ Warfighting Lab has taken special interest in Torc’s robotic vehicle because of its proficiency over harsh surfaces, ability to deliver supplies to dangerous areas, and practicality in lightening the carry loads of soldiers. It can even function as a first defense against improvised explosive devices, which are often difficult to detect with the naked eye.
A pair of videos detailing GUSS testing was released this month, by Torc and a military news source called AiirSource. Aiirsource’s video shows GUSS undergoing testing at the Marine Corps’ Kahuku Training Area on Oahu, Hawaii earlier this year.
GUSS operates in three ways: tele-operated remote control, semi-autonomous, and autonomous. While driving, its WaySight control unit can be operated by a dismounted soldier, who commands the vehicle in various modes.
Mode 1 is “Target Mode,” which uses sight-and-click waypoint tagging for quick movements. Mode 2 is “Follow Me,” which directs GUSS to follow the commanding warfighter at a predetermined distance.
Finally, Mode 3 is “WE Mode,” which enables the tele-operated remote control, allowing the troops to react quickly to changes in the environment or situation.
The United States Military is clearly committed to autonomous technology, as unmanned drones and various robots continue to take burden and responsibility off of ground troops. Could an automated Humvee be next? Automated tanks? Even robotic soldiers? Only time will tell.