One day it won’t only be cars that are driving themselves, and we are about to take one more step forward towards the possibility of other autonomous vehicles. In a move that could pave the way for self-driving commercial trucks, the U.S. Army plans a highway test this summer of driverless convoy technology. The experiment will examine how the vehicles communicate with one another, with nonmilitary vehicles and with the roadway infrastructure through radio links. The trucks, for example, will send their speed and location to roadside transponders that will reply with data such as lane closures and speed limits.
The test will take place in June with at least four vehicles on a stretch of Interstate 69 in Michigan.
For now, drivers will keep control of the trucks, but the Army plans tests on the interstate of driverless capability — robotic control of the vehicles, said Douglas Halleaux, an Army spokesman.
“It won’t be in June, but it won’t be long,” Halleaux said.
The autonomous vehicles have been tested in self-driving mode before but not on public roads.
“We’re very sensitive to the safety of our engineers and our neighbors on the roadways,” Halleaux said.
The Army is “taking this extra step with the radios before we make the big plunge to give our engineers and the public confidence in the trucks’ capabilities,” he said.