DARPA is experimenting with giving driverless combat vehicles off-road autonomy

DARPA’s Robotic Autonomy in Complex Environments with Resiliency (RACER) program has successfully completed one experiment and is now moving on to even more difficult off-road landscapes at Camp Roberts, California, for trials set for September 15-27, according to a press release by the organization published last week.

The program has stated that its aim is “to give driverless combat vehicles off-road autonomy while traveling at speeds that keep pace with those driven by people in realistic situations.”

Autonomous software stacks for the DARPA-provided robot systems have been developed by Carnegie Mellon University, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the University of Washington. Each of these models were tested in “Experiment 1” earlier this year at Fort Irwin, California, and are now involved in the current new trials.

Experiment 1 ran through March-April 2022 on six courses of combat-relevant terrain where each of the teams undertook more than 40 autonomous runs of about 2 miles each, reaching speeds just under 20 miles per hour.