Speaking on Capitol Hill, US secretary of defense Michael Griffin recently stated that AI-based self-driving vehicles would likely be used by the army before autonomous cars start roaming America’s streets.
According to Griffin, AI-powered self-driving vehicles could play a role in reducing casualties in combat zones, considering that a significant number of injuries and fatalities are attributed to military personnel who are tasked with the delivery of fuel, food, and equipment.
Thus, Griffin noted, removing the human factor from the equation could immediately make the logistics of battlefields less risky for military personnel, according to an Automotive News report. The Pentagon official further noted that the technology required for the military’s autonomous vehicles will likely require a simple AI diving algorithm, which makes self-driving vehicles an even more attractive option for the US Army.
“We’re going to have self-driving vehicles in theater for the Army before we’ll have self-driving cars on the streets. But the core technologies will be the same. You’re in a very vulnerable position when you’re doing that kind of activity. If that can be done by an automated unmanned vehicle with a relatively simple AI driving algorithm where I don’t have to worry about pedestrians and road signs and all of that, why wouldn’t I do that?” Griffin said.
The Pentagon’s AI-based self-driving vehicles have a distinct advantage over the autonomous cars from companies such as Waymo and Cruise. Unlike its civilian counterparts, the Pentagon’s development of self-driving vehicles do not need to pass the ever-evolving legal and regulatory environment. Despite this, however, RAND Corp. researcher Karlyn Stanley stated that the Pentagon’s autonomous vehicles would face regulations nonetheless.
“The regulatory structure here in the U.S. and the countries where the U.S. may be sending troops are very different. How autonomous vehicles are going to be regulated — in terms of safety, cybersecurity, privacy and liability — those are going to be critical issues” the Pentagon will have to address as well,” she said.
The Pentagon’s decision to explore AI-based self-driving vehicles is in line with its history. Over the past decades, the Pentagon has supported advanced initiatives that eventually became mainstream, such as the internet. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), for one, has even sponsored an actual competition for self-driving cars back in 2004.
Back in April, Griffin stated that the United States would be wise to explore emerging technologies such as AI to ensure the country’s defense. According to Griffin, artificial intelligence should be added as a dimension of national security, and that AI presents an opportunity for the US to take advantage of the emerging technology.
RAND Corp., for its part, recently published a study warning of the dangers of AI-powered weapons. According to the firm’s researchers, AI weapons could ultimately end military conventions such as “mutual assured destruction,” which, in the worst-case scenario, could trigger a full-scale war.