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Military Lags in Push For Robotic Ground Vehicles

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The Legged Squad Support System, a four-legged robot the military uses to carry up to 400 lbs. of equipment.

The U.S. military has been slow to deploy autonomous vehicle technologies.

Credit: Boston Dynamics

As private companies move forward with self-driving vehicles, the U.S. military has been slow to deploy the technology.

Despite a goal set by Congress to have unmanned vehicles represent a third of the military's combat fleet by 2015, government spending restrictions and technological challenges have made that all but impossible.

Last month, General Motors and Nissan announced plans to sell fully autonomous vehicles before the end of the decade, while Google already has a small fleet of autonomously-driving vehicles. These civilian advances will gradually make their way into military technology.

Although one-third of the military's air fleet has been autonomous since 2012, autonomous ground vehicles have remained elusive, facing the additional challenges of unpredictable terrain and hostile environments. In addition to technological challenges, concerns have emerged about robots taking over the role of human ground soldiers and the morality of using robots in warfare.

However, the military does have the Legged Squad Support System, a four-legged robot that follows soldiers into the field and totes as much as 400 pounds of equipment.

In addition, last year the first completely autonomous ground supply vehicle, the Squad Mission Support System, carried over 10,000 pounds of supplies to a combat outpost in Afghanistan, and next year the military plans to use the vehicle for additional missions.

From The New York Times
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Abstracts Copyright © 2013 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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