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US Army successfully tests driverless convoy

Self-driving cars might be super convenient for civilians, but take that technology to the battlefield and it could be potentially lifesaving.

So it's no surprise that the US military is developing driverless vehicles of its own. The Army and defense contractor Lockheed Martin this week announced a successful test of fully autonomous convoys with various vehicles. The test, which took place earlier this month at Ford Hood, Texas, was part of the Army and Marine Corps' so-called Autonomous Mobility Appliqué System (AMAS) program.

The AMAS hardware and software is designed to automate driving on existing tactical vehicles. During the recent test, driverless tactical vehicles navigated hazards and obstacles such as road intersections, oncoming traffic, stalled and passing vehicles, pedestrians, and traffic circles in both urban and rural areas.

"The ... hardware and software performed exactly as designed, and dealt successfully with all of the real-world obstacles that a real-world convoy would encounter," David Simon, AMAS program manager for Lockheed Martin missiles and fire control, said in a statement.

The AMAS technology includes a high-performance LIDAR sensor, a second GPS receiver, and additional algorithms, all of which can be installed as a kit on almost any military vehicle. For this month's demonstration, the kit was installed on the Army's M915 trucks and Palletized Loading System vehicle.

"We are very pleased with the results of the demonstration, because it adds substantial weight to the Army's determination to get robotic systems into the hands of the warfighter," Bernard Theisen, technical manager of the US Army's Tank-Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, said in a statement.

Google is also joining the race fro driverless cars, recently patenting a free, self-driving taxi scheme for shoppers.

Image: Flickr (expertinfantry)