To overcome the threat along the border with Gaza from snipers, anti-tank missiles and improvised explosive devices (IEDs), the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) began using autonomous patrol vehicles in July.
The Ford F-350 pickup trucks are equipped with four driving cameras and a 360-degree observation camera to aid remote operators in identifying threats.
Called Border Protector Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs), the trucks are currently controlled by an operator in a remote location using a steering wheel, joystick and pedals.
In the next few months, the trucks will become semi–autonomous with the vehicle driving by map coordinates set by an operator, but will still need a person to guide them around obstacles.
That will be followed by fully autonomous driving and the UGVs will be capable of avoiding obstacles on their own.
While the trucks will be self-driving, troops will still be able to drive them.
Israel’s military is planning to add machine guns to the F-350 next year. They will be operated from a control room and will not be autonomous.
The UGV replaces the Guardian, which has patrolled the Gaza border since 2009. Unlike the new vehicle, it didn’t have the capability to avoid obstructions in its path.
Several militaries are working on autonomous military vehicles.
The U.S. Army took its first step towards driverless military vehicles last June with a small fleet of trucks testing on Michigan highways using vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) technology.