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Army’s autonomous truck project passes major milestone

A $3.5 million Australian Army project to develop a convoy of autonomous trucks that use technology to follow the leader has passed a key milestone by successfully completing a series of road trials.

The autonomous leader-follower vehicle technology, using modified Rheinmetall-MAN 40M cargo trucks, was developed under a contract between the Institute for Intelligent Systems Research and Innovation (IISRI) at Deakin University, and Army’s Robotic and Autonomous Systems Implementation and Coordination Office (RICO).

The trials took place over a two-week period at Defence’s Trials and Proving establishment at Monegeetta, Victoria, and involved a five-vehicle convoy.

Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price said the development of robotic and autonomous systems were vital to meeting Australia’s future operational challenges, including for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and in combat operations.

“The completion of this assessment within one year of the allocation of the funding demonstrates the strong industry and Defence partnerships in experimentation, prototyping and exploration of autonomous vehicle and new technologies,” Minister Price said.

“This is exactly the type of capability that the Morrison Government announced in the four new Sovereign Industrial Capability Priorities which will help to build a robust, resilient and internationally competitive defence industry in Australia.”

Army, through RICO, continues to work with IISRI and the Australian Road Research Board on the potential transfer of the capability testing onto public roads with further refinement, performance enhancement and understanding of road rules.

“There are a number of technical and regulatory challenges to address to get these platforms into common use,” Minister Price said.

“The ongoing efforts will enable Army to navigate these challenges.”

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