By Joe Silva
For centuries, technological advancements that were originally dreamed up in works of science-fiction have found their way to into reality. There was Jules Verne’s Nautilus (Submarines), Star Trek’s communicators (cell phones), and the concept of a computer inside of a briefcase (laptops) in the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Countless other technologies at our disposal have often had their conceptual groundwork rooted in fantasy.
In keeping with the tradition of transforming the fantastical into the tangible, the Pentagon is considering implementing automated vehicles. These vehicles would drive themselves using two different programs. The first program involves sensors for viewing and navigating, and the other program would control the actual steering and maneuvering of the vehicle. These robot cars could have easily been inspired by the Batmobile, Knight Rider’s KITT, or the Transformers, although they won’t exactly transform…yet!
This first wave of automated vehicles planned are intended to carry out the more tedious, but dangerous tasks of transporting supplies, rather than for combat. This focus in military innovation coincides with civilian car makers who are currently in the process of developing this technology for public use. an example of this is the advancements in Park Assist systems, where cars park themselves.
In May, at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site in South Carolina, the U.S. Army tested seven different types of tactical vehicles. One test involved running the unmanned vehicles in convoys at speeds over forty miles per hour. The results must have been satisfactory, as the Army has scheduled a second test for August.
In the long run, the Pentagon hopes to save money by investing in these vehicles. Currently, military vehicles require at least two service members, a driver and a spotter for the driver to assist the driver when the vehicle is moving in reverse or maneuvering in tight situations. The money saved from not having to train, house, feed and pay the personnel is expected to cover the cost of the upgrade, and in time, actually save money.
But this change in technology does raise the question, should we be taking positions away from service members? Is this something that we, as a nation, want to see? Just like when supermarkets cut back on cashiers after installing “Self-Checkout” stations, this automated technology will reduce job opportunities for service members in all branches of the military.
While it would be remarkable to see automated vehicles delivering supplies to the front lines, is it worth removing service members from these jobs? Let’s hope that with this new, fantastic innovation, and the many others that are sure to follow, our military and political leaders will still find a way to put service members to work.
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Military Connection: Army’s Futuristic Innovations: By Joe Silva