They are already promising to make the journey to work more bearable for commuters, but self-driving vehicles could also soon transform the way the US armed forces operate in dangerous areas.
A convoy of US Army autonomous trucks is due to cruise along a stretch of public highway in Michigan in June as part of a trial of driverless military vehicles.
Although the vehicles to be used in the trial will be flatbed military trucks, the technology could also be rolled out for tanks and armoured vehicles.
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The technology within each car being tested will include adaptive cruise control and lane keep assistance (pictured above during testing in Texas in 2014)
Due to current road laws, each vehicle in the test will have someone sitting behind the wheel, but the autonomous technology will use sensors to help it stay on the road.
Each truck will use adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assistance to stay within the convoy.
The US Army is thought to be keen to make use of autonomous trucks to help free up its personnel for other roles while also allowing it to send unmanned vehicles into dangerous areas.
HOW DO VEHICLES ‘SEE’ THE ROAD?
Called the Unmanned Mission Module, the technology used in the Fort Hood tests included a high performance LIDAR sensor – or laser radar.
This remote sensing technology is capable of scanning the road ahead and measuring distances by illuminating a target with a laser, and analysing the light that is reflected.
The module is also fitted with a GPS receiver to plan, and track the convoy’s route.
Google’s self-driving cars use similar sensors and technologies to navigate through towns and cities.
Attacks on vehicles and convoys are a common cause of casualties in war zones while accidents also contribute to military fatalities.
According to the Times Herald of Port Huron, the test on the Interstate 69 highway in Michigan will be the first time the army has taken its self-driving vehicles onto public roads.
The highway will remain open to traffic during the testing period.
Previously it has demonstrated the technology on private roads on its test facilities, including in a mockup of a real town to show how they would cope in urban settings.
Alex Kade, from the US Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Centre, said: ‘Six radio transmitters will be set up along Interstate 69 to allow for groups of five vehicles to broadcast speed, distance, and traffic issues as directed over the frequency.’
If the testing is successful, the technology could save the lives of soldiers serving overseas, according to officials.
The US army tested a convoy of autonomous vehicles on private roads in Fort Hood, Texas, (pictured) in 2014. However this will be the first time they are tested on a public highway
The vehicles are fitted with a GPS receiver so members of the US Army Tank-Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) can plan, and track the convoy’s route on handheld computers (pictured)
Remote sensing technology is capable of scanning the road ahead and measuring distances by illuminating a target with a laser, and analysing the light that is reflected (pictured above during testing in Texas in 2014)
Mr Kade added: ‘The advancement of driverless vehicles could help cut down on accidents and dangerous combat situations for soldiers, especially in places where bombs and improvised explosive devices could be hidden.’
There is also the possibility that the technology could also lead to new types of robotic combat vehicles.
Five years ago the Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Centre unveiled a self-driving tank-like vehicle driving off-road and crossing ditches.
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