The US Department of Defense (DoD) has awarded a contract to self-driving trucking company Kodiak Robotics to help automate future military ground vehicles.

The 24-month contract is valued at $49.9m and was awarded by the DoD’s Defense Innovation Unit (DIU).

The contract focuses on ground vehicles led by the Army’s Robotic Combat Vehicle (RCV) programme.

The driverless vehicles will be deployed to conduct high-risk operations such as reconnaissance, surveillance, and more.

Kodiak Robotics founder and CEO Don Burnette said: “I started Kodiak because I believe autonomous technology can save lives, and helping the US Army develop driverless vehicles for the most challenging operating environments fits perfectly with that goal.

“We are proud to have the opportunity to leverage our cutting-edge self-driving technology for defence applications and believe our work with DIU and the US Army will both help strengthen national security and hasten our path to commercial deployment.

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“We owe a debt of gratitude to the servicemen and women who step into harm’s way to keep us safe; keeping them safe in return is an honour we take seriously.”

According to Kodiak, the company will build, test, and implement autonomous capabilities for driverless vehicles by using its proprietary commercial self-driving software.

The capabilities will allow the vehicles to traverse complex territories under varied operational settings. The army will also be able to operate the vehicles remotely when required.

Kodiak said it will apply its technology to specific army use cases, which also includes future army vehicles, in the first year of the contract.

In the following year, Kodiak’s autonomous driving system will be deployed on off-road vehicles ‘capable of traversing complex terrain and operating remotely in unpredictable and austere conditions’.