If there’s one area of life that freeing up humans from seems like a good idea, it’s the military. If we can stop people dying during war, that should take us one step closer to not needing to have them in the first place. While we aren’t quite at the stage of sending out advanced robots to fight all of our battles for us, we are getting quite close to having autonomous support vehicles helping out on the front lines. Meet GUSS, the US marines’ Ground Unmanned Support Surrogate truck.
GUSS is a vehicle that is capable of driving itself around, with the goal of taking ammunition and equipment to the soldiers on the front and then picking up the wounded to transport them back in as timely a manner as possible.
To give us an idea about how these vehicles operate and how their development is coming along, the US marine corps recently released a video showing the GUSS in action:
In this video, we see the GUSS driving itself along along a country track, at one point pulling itself out of the hedge row after (presumably) being deliberately put there to practice its manoeuvring capabilities. It handles the bumpy track relatively well, regularly correcting its positioning in the road and is able to get itself back on to even footing after becoming bogged down in a few places.
However, one soldier does have to save the day when it gets particularly stuck.
This shows quite an advance over the last time we saw the GUSS system back in 2012:
In this outing, the GUSS is talked about in a more theoretical sense, though we do see it in its famous “follow me,” mode which has it following a particular member of the unit. There was also a short demonstration of the GUSS being brought forward to provide coverage and to pick up a potentially wounded soldier.
The GUSS is being developed by TORC Robotics, one of only a handful of companies in the world that has been proven in its development of autonomous vehicles. As far back as 2007, it won the DARPA Urban Challenge award, for sending an unmanned vehicle 60 miles around an urban and off-road environment. Since then it’s expanded operations and is now putting a lot of time and money into pushing the GUSS system forward.
End goals for the unmanned military vehicle include reducing the dependence on soldiers and support workers for resupplying men on the front line and to cut back on the time between missions, since essential equipment can be returned to base without the need for the soldiers themselves to make the trip. It will also feature the aforementioned ammunition and wounded soldier carrying abilities.