The Israeli Army's new autonomous vehicle – a look at the battlefield of tomorrow

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【Summary】The Israeli Army’s new autonomous vehicle – a look at the battlefield of tomorrow

Anthony    Jan 18, 2017 7:05 PM PT
The Israeli Army's new autonomous vehicle – a look at the battlefield of tomorrow

A nation the size of the state of New Jersey, Israel is known to be a regional military power. Through its Air Force, vaunted Special Forces, emphasis on high technology and undeclared nuclear (A-Bomb, H-Bomb, Neutron Bomb) arsenal, as well as national conscription of both men and women, the Israeli military machine has few peers.

Israel is also known as the "Land of the Tech Startups." Along with China, Israel is a startup "Mecca" which features a heavy interest in Silicon Valley technology. As such, it should come as no surprise that the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) is now making a push towards deploying 100% autonomous military vehicles near that nation's border with Gaza. In time, similar vehicles will patrol Israel's borders with Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. 

According to one informative article:

"Working with Israeli defense specialist Elbit Systems, the IDF has equipped Ford F-350 pickup trucks with specialized remote driving technology. The trucks, dubbed ‘Border Protector Unmanned Ground Vehicles' (UGVs), are also fitted with four driving cameras and a 360-degree observation camera to help operators identify threats. At the moment, the vehicles are unarmed."

For those wondering how the vehicles work, they are driven around by a hidden operator who is stationed inside a control room in a remote location. To be more precise, the "controller" will use pedals, a steering wheel and a joystick. Some of the autonomous vehicles will drive to a destination that has been pre-set towards a certain map coordinate. When one peers into the coming decades, they will see that Israel's military trucks will require less and less human intervention.

"In the future, we will have the capability of fully autonomous driving," the IDF official added, noting that the UGVs will autonomously navigate any obstacles in their path. Troops can also drive the UGVs traditionally from the driver's seat.

Thinking along the lines of cyborgs as depicted in "Terminator II: Judgement Day," the autonomous Israeli vehicles will eventually be equipped with a machine gun. But this machine gun in and of itself won't be autonomous. It will be coordinated for firing (also from a hidden control room) by a real soldier/human being.

The aforementioned linked article added that Israel is not alone in developing this type of combat truck "the U.S. Army recently tested driverless vehicle technology in Michigan and also showcased one of its autonomous vehicles at the Detroit Auto Show earlier this year."

What does all of this mean for the battlefields of tomorrow? For one thing, human soldiers will continue to be augmented in terms of operational planning, strategy and combat tactics by non-human robots. This will require a massive changing of the guard in terms of traditional military thinking. As for "The Terminator," it appears that real life soldiers of blood, sweat and tears will continue to dominate the battlefield. In the future however, it might come down to a scenario in which "our robots are better than their robots."

There will always remain that haunting and unsettling feeling that we as humans are releasing a genie that cannot be put back into the bottle. War already feels barbaric and inhumane. Drones and similar technologies make war seem even farther removed from us. For the most part, this type of autonomous technology will be carefully integrated with modern militaries. There are already robots "on patrol" at the DMZ between North and South Korea for example. It would be nice if the robots were programmed to sit down and work out a peace treaty. That notion is almost beyond utopian.

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