Autonomous Reversing Developed for US Army Trailer-Towing UGVs

By Mike Ball / 09 Oct 2020

US Army autonomous trucks

Robotic Research has updated its AutoDrive-M autonomy kit with a Retrotraverse capability that allows autonomous trucks with trailers to reverse. The kit is equipped on the U.S. Army’s Palettized Load System logistics trucks, and the new capability was demonstrated with three of these trucks, each towing trailers.

The Retrotraverse feature can be equipped on a platoon of autonomous heavy-duty trucks with trailers. Many current autonomy solutions demonstrate platooning in benign conditions, where the weather is ideal and road surfaces are smooth and marked. Robotic Research has specifically focused on edge cases, such as poor weather, dust and off-road conditions, to ensure a robust autonomous system suitable for military mission-critical operations. If a platoon drives into a dead end, or similar situation where it cannot make a U-turn, the platoon of vehicles with trailers needs to be able to reverse out of the situation. Retrotraverse successfully addresses this situation.

Robotic Research has previously been awarded a three-year, $49.7 million contract by the U.S. Army to provide its autonomy kit for large convoy re-supply vehicles. Robotic Research has since delivered nearly 100 unmanned platooning trucks.

Alberto Lacaze, president of Robotic Research, commented: “This is a major step forward for our company and has broad application both in autonomy and platooning. The capability solves the potentially life-threatening problem of an autonomous platoon of military vehicles being unable to navigate out of a dangerous situation. This automated platooning capability will ultimately extend the reach of soldiers without putting them in harm’s way.”

Joe Putney, director of commercial systems at Robotic Research, said: “Anyone who has backed up a truck with a trailer knows how difficult it is to navigate. The autonomous Retrotraverse feature was able to reverse a truck and trailer faster than even our most skilled drivers. This feature is not just lifesaving, it’s time-saving, and it has the ability to reduce one of the greatest pains truck drivers have.”

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Posted by Mike Ball Mike Ball is our resident technical editor here at Unmanned Systems Technology. Combining his passion for teaching, advanced engineering and all things unmanned, Mike keeps a watchful eye over everything related to the unmanned technical sector. With over 10 years’ experience in the unmanned field and a degree in engineering, Mike’s been heading up our technical team here for the last 8 years. Connect & Contact