DARPA to Field Test Autonomous Military Off-Roader

The Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is set to field-test autonomous technology on military off-road vehicles in March.

Last year, the agency selected Carnegie Mellon University, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the University of Washington for phase 1 of the Robotic Autonomy in Complex Environments with Resiliency (RACER) program.

The program seeks autonomous technologies that “enable unmanned ground vehicles to maneuver in unstructured off-road terrain at the limit of the vehicle’s mechanical systems and at, or beyond, human-driven speeds and efficiencies.”

The selected teams will demonstrate “platform-based autonomy”— which they have been developing on DARPA-provided vehicles — at the first RACER-hosted field experiment, which involves navigating up to five kilometers of complex terrain.

The self-driving vehicles, based on the Polaris RZR S4 1000 platform, are equipped with “360-degree range and image sensing such as multiple LIDARs (Light Detection and Ranging), stereo camera pairs, color and infrared imaging cameras, RADAR, event sensors, and inertial measurement sensing.”