BRYAN, Texas — Seven prototype robotic military combat vehicles were tested before members of the military and the public, Thursday morning, at the Texas A&M Rellis Campus.
The six invited vendors demonstrated how their autonomous vehicles performed in rural and urban conditions. Military officials say the goal is to see current performance capabilities of driverless combat vehicles to learn what they are looking for in future purchases.
"What you see behind you is not really necessarily what you'll see in that experiment," said Colonel Warren Sponsler, deputy director of the Army's team geared toward autonomous vehicles. "This is instead to inform those requirements."
The event was orchestrated by the newly formed Army Futures Command, based in Austin. Driverless combat vehicles are one of the command's top priorities.
"Each of them are a little different. Some have tracks on them, Some have hard wheels, some have soft," said Colonel Patrick Seiber with the Army Futures Command. "They're looking to see what is optimal for a robotic vehicle."
Each vehicle was sent through an urban obstacle course, simulating a city-based combat environment. Then, each vehicle navigated a small rock wall and a deep mud patch, left over by the Texas rain.
The Army has been moving toward autonomous combat vehicles at a quickened pace, with a vision that they can secure high risk areas without risking human casualties. These vehicles can carry out routine, but often dangerous combat tasks, like delivering medicine or food.
Autonomous vehicles likely won't see combat until 2024, according to the Army.
"There's a lot of the tasks that our soldiers are doing today that we can do with unmanned platforms," said Colonel Sponsler.
"We'll have this machine out here. Completely unnamed, nobody in it," said Geoffrey Howe, a vendor showing his Ripsaw MS3. "It pulls the soldiers away from damage and provides lethality up front."
This was the first of these demonstrations at the remote TAMU Rellis Campus. But, Army officials said they are open to more as the burgeoning futures command deepens its partnerships with Texas universities like UT and A&M.