Now a whole convoy of driverless trucks can be led safely through Afghanistan with only a shoestring!
Military convoys are a top resource for transporting supplies; vehicles are more protected and can deliver large shipments of supplies at one time. The challenge? Vehicle convoys face greater dangers than ever before, especially in today’s combat environments and warfare techniques (e.g. use of roadside bombs and insurgent ambushes in urban environments).
Engineers and manufacturers have been trying their best to create solutions to the new problems posed by 21st Century warfare conditions. It’s tough to develop a solution that is able to withstand a powerful explosion from an IED while still balancing how much personal body armor a driver can wear, how much space a driver has to operate in the cab, and how much shielding can be placed on a vehicle without restricting movement or visibility of operators. Oh yeah! And whatever we come up with has to be affordable too.
The solution showcased by Guideline™ Robotic Convoy System, developed by Autonomous Solutions, Inc., is to take the Soldier completely out of the equation. Two or more convoy vehicles are equipped with vehicle automation technology and are then lashed together with a physical tether. The algorithms in the Guideline™ unit use the length and vector of the tether to deduce the exact location and pathway of the vehicle ahead of it. This information is relayed to the vehicle automation kit which takes care of the actual driving. Convoys still get from point A to point B and the Soldiers that would normally be behind the wheel are kept safe from dangerous circumstances.
The Guideline™ system uses a durable, Kevlar tether to attach an autonomous convoy vehicle to any leader, even another tethered vehicle or a person. The tether works in any terrain, weather, or lighting condition and is not affected by jamming equipment. Sensors within the tether measure the distance, direction, and speed of the tether and use it to map out the exact path of the lead vehicle for the autonomous vehicle kit to follow.
Not only can Guideline™ keep more Soldiers safe in active combat zones, but it can also be effectively used for on- and off-base logistics (e.g. moving multiple vehicles from one place to the other in a motor pool), long-distance/highway convoy travel, industrial convoys, and even as a fail-safe system in case a primary robotic convoy system fails. The simple, physical nature of the Guideline™ system reduces the amount of expensive components present in GPS or laser guided convoy systems, making it an all-around more affordable convoy solution for military and industrial companies.
Guideline™ is being actively used by both domestic and international military organizations and contractors. For example, major US defense contractor General Dynamics Robotic Systems (GDRS) uses Guideline™ as its robotic Leader/Follower convoy solution, and has tested Guideline™ in convoys up to 10 vehicles traveling at 40 MPH.
“Truck on a leash” is not just a catchy tag-line; it represents a viable and affordable solution for convoy and logistical operations. Check out this video of Guideline in action.