autonomous shuttle (Chesky/Shutterstock.com)

Army, Colorado Springs partner on automated vehicle testbed

An automated vehicle testbed is being developed by the Army's Fort Carson, the city of Colorado Springs and the University of Colorado's Research and Engineering Center for Unmanned Vehicles.

The $4 million joint endeavor aims to reduce transportation costs, improve public safety and deliver faster services. It is also intended to serve as a model for future smart military installations nationally.

The Army maintains vast fleets of non-tactical passenger vehicles and light trucks, but uses them only 7% of the time. Additionally, many service members stationed at Fort Carson live off base, so autonomous vehicles could help reduce congestion, not just on site, but between the base and nearby Colorado Springs.

The first phase of the program will deploy automated shuttles on base and will explore on- and off-post automated delivery vehicles.

Fort Carson and Colorado Springs will contribute to a shared data repository. Smart sensors on base that monitor traffic, parking and public safety and will be linked to information from the city's sensors and mapping systems. Researchers will analyze these datasets with an eye to improving safety and services and eventually plan to develop machine-learning models that prioritize transportation resources based on usage rates and community needs.

"Smart military posts, like smart cities around the country, must explore advancements in mobility and automation that leverage sensors and big data to optimize operational efficiencies and improve the lives of Soldiers and their families," said Jim P. Allen, program manager with the Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC).

"The future of smart military installations, and of transportation technologies, is dependent on implementing high-quality, data-driven, and repeatable pilot programs that enable researchers to investigate challenges securely and at scale," said Nick Maynard, the chief strategy officer of US Ignite, which is managing the program. "We envision the Fort Carson project as the start of a wave of new research testbeds at military posts that will help revolutionize transportation for decades to come."

The military has a number of autonomous vehicle test programs underway. In March, ERCD announced it would conduct pilot demonstrations of 10 use cases demonstrating how smart-city technology can be leveraged by the military.

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