It’s life-saving work that happens while few pay attention.
If you’re traveling through Warren, it’s easy to miss the Detroit Arsenal facility — the facility is tucked off of Eleven Mile and Mound. It’s large but unassuming. Inside, the United States Army Tank Automotive Research team, known as TARDEC, is working to push autonomous technology in the government sector.
“We operate off-road, so Google doesn’t have it mapped,” explained Scott Heim, the project manager for connected autonomous vehicles.
Testing has already been visible on Michigan roads. Last year, the U.S. Army performed a leader-follower test where a military driver drove a single semi-truck across the Blue Water Bridge and back — behind him several autonomous vehicles without drivers, each following. It’s technology that could make shipping easier. The next step would be to do the entire process without a driver.
Those types of operations free up manpower for frontline jobs in the military, but further advances could take some of the risks out of missions.
“Moving into the combat world we have a manned tanker controlling multiple other vehicles doing more recognizance, breaching or other things that are more risky,” said Heim.
While the work is being done in cubicles and on computer screens in Warren, the testing is being done in places like Camp Grayling. Older military vehicles have been retrofitted with sensors, and in some cases, drones — imagine a military vehicle where a driver didn’t have to sit in a cockpit and aerial views for recognizance can be done via drones attached to the vehicle. It’s that type of theoretical approach that is being looked at right now.
What the next generation of Army vehicles look like remains to be seen, but if more advances are made it could lead to a new-look for the military in the future. As it stands now, the United States is undergoing high-tech efforts to limit the American troops being put in harm’s way.