Tatra develops integration of autonomous driving system into next generation of Force trucks

According to Czechoslovak Group on September 26, 2023, Tatra is actively engaged in research related to automated vehicle control and the corresponding software development. Collaborating with the Mobility Lab team at VSB - Technical University of Ostrava and Valeo, Tatra is working on the integration of an autonomous driving system into the next generation of its Tatra force truck, which is the base of an increasing number of military vehicles.
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Tatra demonstrates the advantages of its autonomous Tatra Force truck (Picture source: Czechoslovak Group)

The focal point of this project is the creation of a remote-control vehicle equipped for autonomous driving, which features interface controls allowing for precise management of critical vehicle functions, including the engine, transmission, braking system, steering direction, driving speed, headlights, and turn indicators.

Among the potential advantages of these remote-controlled military trucks is the prospect of enhancing safety and reducing risks, as demonstrated by USARCENT’s 1st Theater Sustainment Command in Kuwait on July 25, 2023. Autonomous vehicles have the capability to potentially lower casualties in combat zones. A significant proportion, up to 52%, of casualties in such areas can be attributed to military personnel engaged in logistics operations, such as the transportation of food and fuel. The deployment of autonomous vehicles could significantly reduce the exposure of troops to potential danger.

These vehicles can prove instrumental in high-risk explosives removal missions, eliminating the necessity for human personnel to undertake hazardous tasks as shown in the United Kingdom on November 2, 2022. The technology also offers the potential to substitute human scouts behind enemy lines with Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs), thereby potentially reducing the hazards faced by military personnel.

Operational efficiency is another notable aspect facilitated by autonomous military trucks. These vehicles can operate continuously, without the limitations posed by sleep deprivation or hunger, ensuring uninterrupted logistical support in demanding operational environments. The US Army is actively exploring autonomous systems capable of executing operations across multiple domains, making them suitable for reconnaissance, surveillance, intelligence-gathering, and target acquisition.

From a technological perspective, the integration of artificial intelligence is a central theme. The US Army is focusing on integrating artificial intelligence to minimize distractions for soldiers and enhance the effectiveness of autonomous systems. Advanced sensors, including GPS, lidar, and camera instruments for machine vision, are employed in these vehicles, providing them with situational awareness. Learning algorithms, powered by supervised learning processes, utilize visual data and sensor inputs to enhance their capabilities, as proven by the successful test of an autonomous truck convoy by the Australian Army on June 6, 2023.

One of the noteworthy benefits of autonomous military trucks is their potential for cost-effectiveness. For example, the cost of training a fighter pilot today is approximately $11 million, whereas autonomous vehicles could potentially reduce operational training costs substantially. These vehicles can efficiently transport equipment, weapons, medical supplies, and rations, optimizing the utilization of limited military resources.

Versatility and adaptability are key features of these military vehicles. They can operate in diverse terrains, from dense forests to arid deserts, as demonstrated by the American RACER program on September 16, 2022, making them suitable for a wide range of missions. Specialized tasks, such as mine detection and search and rescue operations, can be executed with precision. Additionally, teleoperation capabilities make these vehicles valuable in war zones, where they can undertake surveillance missions and IED search and destroy operations without exposing troops to direct combat situations.

From an ethical and security perspective, autonomous military vehicles offer an advantage in terms of being resistant to external influence. Drones operated by artificial intelligence cannot be coerced or bribed, potentially providing an additional layer of security during military operations. Nevertheless, it is essential to acknowledge the challenges and considerations associated with this advanced technology. Cybersecurity risks are a significant concern, as these vehicles are susceptible to cyber-attacks. The engineering challenges associated with the need for these vehicles to operate in inhospitable environments cannot be underestimated.