The Australian Department of Defence has announced that the army’s autonomous truck technology completed a series of road trials, achieving a key milestone for the project.

The robotic and autonomous system capability aims to help the army address future operational challenges when conducting combat missions and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations.

In August last year, Deakin University’s Institute for Intelligent Systems Research and Innovation (IISRI) was awarded a $3.5m contract to expand leader-follower vehicle technology prototyping.

The contract involves developing a technology that will give a group of vehicles autonomous capability to travel off-road in complex, unstructured terrains.

IISRI and the Australian Army’s Robotic and Autonomous Systems Implementation and Coordination Office (RICO) used modified Land 121 40M cargo trucks to develop the autonomous leader-follower vehicle technology.

During the trials, a five-vehicle convoy was put through testing over a two-week period. Testing was conducted at Defence’s Trials and Proving establishment at Monegeetta, Victoria.

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Australian Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price said: “The completion of this assessment within one year of the allocation of the funding demonstrates the strong industry and defence partnerships in experimentation, prototyping and exploration of autonomous vehicle and new technologies.

“These technologies are ‘disruptive technologies’ that provide marked advantages on the modern battlefield by bolstering ADF capability while protecting Australian personnel.

“This is exactly the type of capability that the Morrison government announced in the four new Sovereign Industrial Capability Priorities, which will help to build a robust, resilient and internationally competitive defence industry in Australia.”

The development effort has several technical and regulatory challenges to overcome before it can be transferred to common use, noted Price.