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The Army Is Speeding Ahead With Self-Driving Medical Transport
The Army is the latest organization to venture into the realm of driverless cars, joining the likes of Tesla, Google, Audi, Uber, and many others in tech’s most popular sector. Unlike its corporate counterparts, though, Army leadership isn’t investing in this industry to make morning commutes easier or allow people to chow down burgers in the driver’s seat. They’ve got bigger goals in mind.
By 2018, the Army plans to have autonomous vehicles on the road transporting wounded soldiers to the hospital for rehab. This move is aimed at reducing the likelihood of combat-wounded soldiers missing their doctor’s appointments due to heavy traffic and lack of parking close to on-base hospitals like Fort Bragg’s. These logistical issues cost the Army valuable time and resources, says Edward Straub, program manager for the Army’s Applied Robotics for Installations and Base operations.
“Some of these appointments can cost $5,000. So, if the soldier is not showing up, that’s a huge cost,” Straub said in a recent interview with Automotive News. “We surmised that by providing a reliable, personalized transportation option, we could reduce that number of missed appointments.”
To make this happen, the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center has rolled out a three-phase pilot program at Fort Bragg, South Carolina, and several other locations.
The first phase is already underway, with drivers steering the vehicles along their designated routes. Because they are essentially extra-long golf carts operating on military installations, these vehicles operate at low speeds and in controlled areas. Unlike commercial driverless technology like Tesla’s autopilot feature, these Army carts do not necessarily have road signs or markings to give them any cues. Operating them autonomously and safely in this environment is more difficult than in the confines of a city street.
Things will get interesting in phase two, which is tentatively set to begin this fall. Similar to the Google self-driving cars that have been on American roads for months, the cart drives itself, but will have an operator in the front seat in case the vehicle malfunctions in any way.
If everything goes according to plan, the training wheels will come off and these vehicles will operate independently by late 2017 or early 2018. Once this happens, American soldiers will be able to schedule personalized door-to-door transports from their barracks to the hospital with ease.
While these developments aren’t as eye-popping as Israel’s rollout of self-driving trucks on the Gaza border, they’ll be a huge upgrade for the Army’s on-base medical services and will ensure combat-wounded soldiers get the treatment they need. What’s more, they represent a glimpse into the Army’s future plans to use driverless combat vehicles to transport supplies and soldiers.
These developments may not sound like much compared to many car companies’ upcoming models, but remember, these Army carts are moving wounded soldiers, the most precious of cargo.
The Taliban may not have breached the walls of Bagram, but they damaged the hell out of its main passenger terminal
Blasts from Taliban car bombs outside of Bagram Airfield on Wednesday caused extensive damage to the base's passenger terminal, new pictures released by the 45th Expeditionary Wing show.
The pictures, which are part of a photo essay called "Bagram stands fast," were posted on the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service's website on Thursday.
Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.
Shortly after seven sailors died aboard USS Fitzgerald when she collided with a merchant ship off Japan in 2017, I wrote that the Fitzgerald's watch team could have been mine. My ship had once had a close call with me on watch, and I had attempted to explain how such a thing could happen. "Operating ships at sea is hard, and dangerous. Stand enough watches, and you'll have close calls," I wrote at the time. "When the Fitzgerald's investigation comes out, I, for one, will likely be forgiving."
So, am I forgiving? Yes — for some.
Editor's note: a version of this story first appeared in 2015.
Most people haven't heard of an elderly Belgian-Congolese nurse named Augusta Chiwy. But students of history know that adversity and dread can turn on a dime into freedom and change, and it's often the most humble and little-known individuals who are the drivers of it.
During the very darkest days of the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, Chiwy was such a catalyst, and hundreds of Americans lived because of her. She died quietly on Aug. 23, 2015, at the age of 94 at her home in Brussels, Belgium, and had it not been for the efforts of my friend — British military historian Martin King — the world may never have heard her astonishing story.
More than $20 million of the Pentagon aid at the center of the impeachment fight still hasn't reached Ukraine.
The continued delay undermines a key argument against impeachment from President Trump's Republican allies and a new legal memo from the White House Office of Management and Budget.
Average pay, housing and subsistence allowances will increase for members of the military in 2020, the Pentagon announced Thursday.