While the past decade has seen the proliferation of semi-autonomous military robots such as the Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle and the PackBot bomb disposer, there’s always been a human in the loop. That’s about to change, as military robots are about to take their next big step—into full autonomy.
Check out the video below of the Ground Unmanned Support Surrogate, or GUSS, being developed by TORC Robotics of Blacksburg, Va. GUSS can be remotely piloted by a human, but it can also be programmed to navigate autonomously to waypoints or even to follow other vehicles or individuals. The vehicle is intended to act as a load-carrying mule, or as a sort of evac medic (although if it’s going to be used that way, the marines may want to remove the gas tanks hanging off its side in the video):
Stars and Stripes has a full story on this impending switch, which will inevitably have an effect on the larger consumer world. Just as the Parrot AR drone toy followed similar military robots by only a few years, so too will GUSS and its ilk translate into the real world.
Google, which is working on fully automated cars, believes such vehicles will be commonplace within the decade. While such a premise will inevitably cue the raft of Terminator apocalypse comments, I for one welcome the chance to ditch my own car and order one up to my door via smartphone whenever I need it.