BRYAN, Texas — The U.S. Army is hoping to one day have their front lines of combat without soldiers.
That's why Thursday morning, companies competing to create the prototype for the future of the Army's vehicles showcased what they had to offer.
This week, six companies are going through an evaluation period with their seven vehicles for the Army to see. These vehicles have to be able to travel over different types of terrain, go a certain speed and carry a specific weight as.
But the biggest criteria: the vehicles also have to be driverless.
Colonel Warren Sponsler is the deputy director for the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross-Functional Team. He said creating robotic vehicles that can go into battle before any people have to will create a safer environment for their military members.
"We are strong believers that this is going to be a revolutionary change to what are units do," Col. Sponsler said. "We are trying to augment our current combat formations with a capability that will help reduce risk to soldiers and conduct tasks that are otherwise done by soldiers today."
This evaluation coincides with the purpose of the Army Futures Command, which is established in Austin and focused on creating future combat technology for the Army. The eventual goal is to create a prototype for the next generation of driverless combat vehicles.
Col. Patrick Seiber is the Communications Director for the U.S. Army Futures Command. He said the variation in the type of vehicles brought to this evaluation is valuable for their work.
"Each of them are a little different," Col. Seiber said. "You've got some here that have got tracks on them. Some have wheels. Some are soft-wheeled. Some are hard-wheeled. If you could send a robotic vehicle up there with a weapons system like this on there, that could do that for you to allow the maneuver force to get in and lessen the risk there, why wouldn't you do that?"
After this week, the Army will give the companies specific characteristics or tasks they want out of their eventual prototype as a part of a requirements document they are planning to put together in the next 45 days.
Then the goal is to have a prototype established by late 2020 and start distributing the units by 2024.
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