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 haveautonomous 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 likeTesla’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 asIsrael’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 Marine lieutenant colonel removed from command of the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion in May was ousted over alleged "misconduct" but has not been charged with a crime, Task & Purpose has learned.
Lt. Col. Francisco Zavala, 42, who was removed from his post by the commanding general of 1st Marine Division on May 7, has since been reassigned to the command element of 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, and a decision on whether he will be charged is "still pending," MEF spokeswoman 1st Lt. Virginia Burger told Task & Purpose last week.
"We are not aware of any ongoing or additional investigations of Lt. Col. Zavala at this time," MEF spokesman 2nd Lt. Brian Tuthill told Task & Purpose on Monday. "The command investigation was closed May 14 and the alleged misconduct concerns Articles 128 and 133 of the UCMJ," Tuthill added, mentioning offenses under military law that deal with assault and conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman.
"There is a period of due process afforded the accused and he is presumed innocent until proven guilty," he said.
When asked for an explanation for the delay, MEF officials directed Task & Purpose to contact 1st Marine Division officials, who did not respond before deadline.
The investigation of Zavala, completed on May 3 and released to Task & Purpose in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, showed that he had allegedly acted inappropriately. The report also confirmed some details of his wife's account of alleged domestic violence that Task & Purpose first reported last month.
U.S. troops rejoice — the midnight curfew for service members in South Korea has been temporarily suspended, as command evaluates if you can be trusted to not act like wild animals in the streets of Pyeongtaek.
Late last month Activision's Infinity Ward dropped a teaser trailer for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare — a soft-reboot of one of it's most beloved games — and just two weeks after the May 30 reveal, the game developer unveiled some new details on what's in store for the first-person shooter's multiplayer: Juggernaut and ghillie suits!