The Australian Department of Defence (DoD) has announced funding to a consortium of four local universities for the development of the next-generation of autonomous vehicles.

The project will see the University of Melbourne, Macquarie University, the University of New South Wales and Queensland University of Technology work in collaboration with US-based universities.

Boston University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are the US universities participating in the programme.

The project is in line with the DoD’s priority of autonomous capability.

Australia Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price said: “Autonomous vehicles help keep troops a safe distance from harm and present solutions to a range of problems faced by our military personnel in the field.”

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The project will include a study on whether the way living creatures receive, process and react to environmental and contextual information can be applied to robots to improve their perception, navigation and spatial awareness.

Price added: “This project is aimed at developing a truly autonomous vehicle capable of learning, adapting to unexpected situations, and pursuing complex goals in dynamic and challenging environments.

“It is a tremendous opportunity for our scientists to collaborate with their counterparts in the US on research that is vital for the future defence and security of Australia.”

The A$3m funding was awarded to the consortium under the AUSMURI programme, which is aimed at fostering collaboration between Australian and US universities.

Meanwhile, the DoD has selected eight Australian universities to perform research into human performance with the aim of improving the capability of the troops.

The universities will undertake the research studies through the Human Performance Research network (HPRnet).