U.S. Army to test run a convoy of autonomous trucks on Michigan highway

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Updated Jun 10, 2017


While the focus in autonomous truck development is often on private companies, the U.S. Army has also remained diligent in pursuing self-driving tech.

The U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) has been successful for the past year testing communications systems during truck platooning runs on Interstate 69 in St. Clair and Lapeer counties.

Now TARDEC plans to run a convoy of trucks on a Michigan highway this month to test the trucks in fully autonomous mode. To play it safe, a person will be riding in each truck ready to take the wheel if necessary.

The trucks will be riding along on I-69 sharing the road with the public. They’ll cross Blue Water Bridge, which will prove to be an important test.

“You’re crossing a steel girder bridge and you look for the different radar reflections, whether or not your system gets confused or not,” TARDEC Director Dr. Paul Rogers told CBSDetroit.

The Blue Water Bridge spans the St. Clair River and joins Port Huron, Michigan, to Point Edward, Ontario, Canada. It is roughly 6,178 feet long.

Michigan’s Department of Transportation has been working closely with TARDEC to help advance autonomous driving technology in the state.

“We’re moving forward on how we can deploy this in a safe fashion on our public roadways and bring this technology to bear to make Michigan a true leader,” Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said during a recent press conference where TARDEC’s upcoming Blue Water Bridge trip was announced.

State transportation officials believe that once fully implemented, autonomous driving technology could reduce traffic deaths by 80 percent.

“At the end of the day that’s what’s most important to the department of transportation. It’s the safety component,” Michigan State Transportation Director Kirk Suedle said during last week’s press conference.

TARDEC envisions using autonomous trucks and other vehicles in combat which will not require drivers and thus keep more personnel out of harm’s way.

Seudle said last year during an interview on TARDEC’s platooning tests that his state is leading the way in autonomous driving development.

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“We’re really out in the front. There really is nobody that’s close to us. California’s close, but there’s nobody else that has the technology, the partners like we have here in Michigan,” Seudle said.