Unmanned Vehicles

A trip to Oshkosh Corp. reminds us that no matter how cool a technology is, the goal is to protect people, and possibly save lives in the process.

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Fellow editor Sara Jensen and myself just got back from a fascinating meeting with Oshkosh Corp.'s Chief Engineer of Unmanned Systems, John Beck. This isn't our first visit with the company, and it certainly won't be our last. The great thing about military vehicles is they don't have restrictions or regulations to adhere to. The technology should be the most effective—whatever keeps the soldiers safest.

There is a strong feeling of pride in the office. Everyone seems to understand just how important their job is, protecting our armed forces, and they speak with passion and excitement about the new systems they are developing to help in whatever way they can.

Our April issue will feature a couple of articles with a military swing to them, and it's always my favorite industry to cover. I'll admit, I also enjoy the demonstration rides in HEMTTs, FMTVs, MRAPs and other vehicles through the test track (which, by the way, includes a 60% grade incline that is thrilling and terrifying at the same time). 

The chat this visit was centered around the autonomous vehicle systems Oshkosh has been developing for years, continually improving upon the system. During our test run, our driver looked over and said, "You know, you may not realize the other value of unmanned vehicles. It doesn't have to be just for caravans or new area investigation. When you have wounded men trapped by unfriendly or dangerous circumstances, having an autonomous vehicle to go and retreive them so you aren't putting twelve more guys in danger...that's doing more than protecting, that's saving lives."

I was speechless. He was absolutely right. I was so wrapped up in the tactical benefits of unmanned vehicles—and the general coolness of a truck flying around without a driver—that I had looked beyond the most important benefit of the system, survivability. 

Everyone contributes to the overall betterment of life in some respect, whether it's operator comfort to reduce overall stress, to developers of electric vehicles to reduce emissions and noise, improving air quality. 

Stay tuned for the article in our upcoming April issue!