OSHKOSH, Wis. -- The U.S. military is testing some robotic vehicles made by Oshkosh Corp. that can be used to carry supplies into combat zones.
Oshkosh has spent millions of dollars developing the unmanned trucks, which company engineer John Beck says they are still a few years from completion. Recent testing has taken place at Eglin Air Force Base in northwest Florida, where prototypes are put through an off-road course that included wooded areas, sand and water crossings.
Beck said the robotic vehicles have come a long way in development in recent years. Improved technology allows the trucks to sense road hazards in 3-D, rather than in two dimensions.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which first reported on this story, said the U.S. military wants unmanned trucks that can drive long distances by themselves in dangerous conditions.
Oshkosh has spent millions of dollars on autonomous technologies.
"We are getting closer, but I would say we are still a few years out," said Beck, the company's chief unmanned systems engineer.
Oshkosh has participated in technology competitions aimed at demonstrating how unmanned vehicles can handle tasks such as making quick decisions in moving traffic, and discerning what's an obstacle in the road and what's something a truck can easily run over.
In a 2004 desert race in Nevada, a 16-ton Oshkosh robotic truck earned the nickname "gentle giant" after it balked at some tumbleweed, froze in its tracks and backed into a ditch. But in 2005, the burly truck muscled its way through a 150-mile course with no assistance from a driver or remote control.