The Pentagon is commissioning for its own fleet of self-driving vehicles to take over food and fuel transport, Bloomberg reported Monday.
Using driverless cars to move equipment and supplies through dangerous areas could prevent a significant number of casualties sustained in combat zones. Roughly 52 percent of military personnel killed or wounded in combat zones are working jobs related to supplies movement, Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Michael Griffin told lawmakers during an April 17 hearing.
“You’re in a very vulnerable position when you’re doing that kind of activity,” Griffin said, according to Bloomberg. “If that can be done by an automated unmanned vehicle with a relatively simple AI driving algorithm where I don’t have to worry about pedestrians and road signs and all of that, why wouldn’t I do that?”
Private companies such as Uber and Tesla are developing driverless technology for commercial cars, though the military version is supposed to be placed in widespread operation sooner. The military’s fleet of vehicles will be much simpler without the need abide by traffic laws.
Companies trying to create commercial fleets of self-driving cars must abide by developing regulations on the industry while contending with accidents, and the subsequent media coverage, involving the new technology.
On March 19, an auto-driving Uber struck and killed a woman in Arizona — the first death involving completely self-driving cars. The car was carrying an emergency backup driver, though she was distracted in the moments leading up to the crash.
Uber settled out of court with the victim’s family, but the incident sparked fears of the new technology, increased skepticism, and a closer look by politicians and regulators.
“This tragic incident makes clear that autonomous vehicle technology has a long way to go before it is truly safe for the passengers, pedestrians, and drivers who share America’s roads,” Democrat Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said after the crash.
Arizona’s governor suspended Uber’s license to test self-driving vehicles in the state because of the accident.
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