U.S. Army Unveils High-Tech, Self-Driving Golf Carts

<span class='p-name'>U.S. Army Unveils High-Tech, Self-Driving Golf Carts</span>
According to a press release issued by the U.S. Army, a division of the ground-based branch of the U.S. armed forces has successfully tested a series of autonomous robotic vehicles that can extend communication beyond the standard line of sight.

What is amazing about this announcement is that among these vehicles are off-road golf carts. Experts predict that this technology will soon trickle down to ordinary civilians and will be available for purchase on the consumer market. It is difficult to determine at the moment, however, which will come first: self-driving golf carts or self-driving automobiles, such as the model being developed by Google.

While the U.S. military has successfully employed unmanned aerial systems for several years, it is now expanding into ocean-going robotics and driverless convoys. The difference, however, is that aerial drones still require direct human control most of the time while the new robotic vehicles can fully operate without human assistance, accounting for and making adjustments to cope with changes in terrain and unexpected situations.

Autonomous Robot Vehicles Demonstrated

At Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst (JB MDL) in New Jersey, U.S. Army engineers put on a demonstration of autonomous vehicles as part of a program meant to bridge the communication gap between robots and active soldiers in the field. The demonstration took place November 2 to November 3, and the highlight was showing how a single soldier could use several unmanned systems simultaneously.

Soldiers in the field are able to communicate with these autonomous robots as needed while carrying out other duties because they do not require dedicated operators of any kind. The cognitive burden is so minimal that soldiers may continue to focus their attention on other matters at hand.

U.S. Army C-TEAM

The division behind the autonomous robots is the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC), which is a division of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM). The mission of RDECOM is to ensure that land operations are unified and are a decisive overmatch for enemies.

The division behind the autonomous robots is the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC), which is a division of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM). The mission of RDECOM is to ensure that land operations are unified and are a decisive overmatch for enemies.

The team working under CERDEC to actually create and test these robotic vehicles is named Technology Enhancements in Autonomous Machines (C-TEAM). This unit was put together swiftly, and members quickly focused on the task of bringing autonomous off road golf carts and other vehicles into the field.

The result of C-TEAM’s work was two Modular Detection and Response Systems (MDARS), which took center stage in a demonstration that included real-world tactical scenarios. C-TEAM proved the effectiveness of its robot technology and showed how it can be incorporated on battlefields to the benefit of live soldiers.

MDARS Released

The demonstration began with a short presentation, and afterward, the two MDARS successfully navigated to preset destinations while members of C-TEAM followed in a manually operated chase vehicle. While this occurred, a group of engineers stood by to verify that communications from the MDARS were being received by C-TEAM. To accomplish this, the engineers received video streams from the unmanned, off-road golf carts before sending them on to the command vehicle.

According to Chuck Shoemaker, head of Autonomous Systems at CERDAC, the purpose of the demonstration was to highlight how unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) can be leveraged by commanders to create a communications network that extends beyond line of sight. The information from these communications combined with command applications and onboard sensors establishes situational awareness, detects enemy targets and engages them in combat when they are out of sight with ground troops.

MDARS a Collaborative Effort

The autonomous off road golf carts used in the demonstration are the result of the collaboration of four departments within CERDEC. Command, Power and Integration (CP&I); Space and Terrestrial Communications; Night Vision and Electronic Sensors; and Intelligence and Information Warfare worked together for more than a year to make MDARS functional. In addition, a host of civilian contractors supported the mission and were critical in developing them as high-performance vehicles.

The autonomous off road golf carts used in the demonstration are the result of the collaboration of four departments within CERDEC. Command, Power and Integration (CP&I); Space and Terrestrial Communications; Night Vision and Electronic Sensors; and Intelligence and Information Warfare worked together for more than a year to make MDARS functional. In addition, a host of civilian contractors supported the mission and were critical in developing them as high-performance vehicles.

Gary Blohm, director of CERDEC CP&I, stated that MDARS took into account a requirement for all systems, autonomous or otherwise, known as command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) capability.

“We demonstrated the power of bringing all of CERDEC together to address challenges in autonomous operations,” said Blohm. “Through teamwork, the team accomplished a great deal and has identified the next steps to continue to advance autonomous capability.”

“We are setting a new baseline for a number of technologies used on robotic vehicles that are a step beyond tele-operated systems,” added Shoemaker.

The technology implemented for creating autonomous robots is rapidly expanding. These systems are currently able to execute tasks with limited supervision or without any supervision at all. Everyone involved in this project was chosen for their technological expertise and ability to enhance how the MDARS perform.

In developing the first MDARS, C-TEAM focused on four specific elements: communication, navigation, command and control. In addition, sensors were found to provide optimal range and resolution, which are called Laser, Imaging and Detection Systems (LIDARS).

“It’s important to have sensor LIDARS on the vehicle to ensure minimal latency and detect obstacles in the field of view of the robot and ensure maneuvers around the obstacles,” said Shoemaker. “Each focus area will help accelerate the rate at which these systems are deployed. The technologies demonstrated are invaluable to the soldiers.”

Civilian Autonomous Golf Carts

While the U.S. Army has been testing autonomous golf carts for military use, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has been doing so for the civilian consumer market. In September, a joint team of researchers from MIT and Singapore University known as the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) conducted a six-day demonstration of a self-driving golf cart they had been developing over the past several years.

The team’s vision in creating these golf carts is to create a shared transportation system that does not require driving skills. The SMART golf cart transported a total of 500 people during the test, picking up passengers at 10 stations in Singapore’s public gardens. The golf cart travels at a maximum of 15 mph and uses a combination of advanced sensors and a driving algorithm called the Dynamic Virtual Bumper, which navigates the vehicle to its destination while avoiding obstacles along the way.

Like the MDARS, the SMART golf cart uses a LIDAR sensors that were chosen because they are more affordable than 3-D scanners that create panoramic images to determine a vehicle’s position and detect obstacles.


Posted by Geoff Brand


This entry was posted in General.