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Australian Army Demonstrates Public Road Deployment of Autonomous Truck Convoy

The Australian Army conducted its first deployment of an autonomous truck convoy on public roads in Victoria.

The demonstration was part of a project to provide the army with autonomous mobility systems that can travel on various complex roads, even without markings.

The initiative’s first trial was facilitated in October 2021 using a convoy of five modified Land 121 40M cargo trucks. Investment for the development phase amounted to 3.6 million Australian dollars ($2.6 million).

Work on the initiative was carried out with the National Transport Research Organization and Deakin University.

‘Leader-Follower’ Formation

During the demonstration, four trucks simulated autonomous resupply missions between Puckapunyal and Mangalore Airfield via the Hume Highway and Goulburn Valley Highway.

“This trial showed how a convoy could undertake a resupply mission between an airfield and a military base, giving us an idea of how this kind of technology could be used in the future,” Australian Army Future Land Warfare Branch’s Col. Robin Smith explained.

The fleet drove autonomously across the public highways while maintaining a “leader-follower” setup, a formation in which they followed a fifth manned vehicle.

Three autonomous Army trucks ready for the leader-follower trial.
Three autonomous army trucks ready for the leader-follower trial. Photo: Australian Ministry of Defence

“Driving on a highway in traffic meant the technology was tested to stop safely, and leave distances between other vehicles, while following the path set by the leader,” Smith said.

“Down the track, technology like this could remove our soldiers from dangerous environments, or help free soldiers up for other roles.”

Australian Army Modernization

The trial builds on the Australian Army’s 12.2-million Australian dollar ($8.3 million) program seeking the “experimentation, prototyping and exploration of autonomous vehicles and emerging technologies.”

It supports the army’s ongoing wide-scale modernization effort, which, alongside autonomous systems, explores the field of artificial intelligence, human-machine teaming, electrification, and quantum technology.

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