Google may be an innovator, but not when it comes to the concept of driverless cars.
Much has been reported recently about the advancements in the development of automatic cars that can drive themselves The Israeli Defense Forces have actually been using unmanned ground vehicles for the last five years. It has now unveiled a new driverless jeep.
During Israel’s thirty year presence in Lebanon, and more recently the American occupation of Iraq, thousands of soldiers were either killed or wounded by improvised explosive devices that were tripped by vehicles on patrol. In fact, twice since Israel withdrew from Lebanon, once in 2000 and once in 2006, Israeli soldiers were killed in attacks by Hezbollah while they patrolled the Israel-Lebanese border.
This has led to a desire by every military force in the world to be equipped with as many unmanned surveillance devices as possible, even jeeps.
Today the IDF uses the Guardium Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV), an autonomous type of jeep designed in a joint venture by Israel Aerospace Industries and Elbit Systems. The Guardium is used by the IDF for patrols along Israel’s border with Gaza.
Israel’s military plans to add three more such vehicles in the coming years, including the Loyal Partner. Loyal Partner is similar to a Humvee, which is the vehicle currently used by Israeli soldiers while patrolling the nation’s borders. Once in use the IDF will not need to risk its soldiers’ lives while on border patrol as the vehicle is controlled by a soldier sitting in front of a video console in a room some distance away.
Another automated vehicle being developed is the Border Protector which will be functional in all weather conditions. The Border Protector is intended to replace the Guardium.
The IDF spokesman said, “Vehicles without drivers are nothing new for the Israeli military. They have been used extensively in small devices that enter buildings and large cars equipped with 360-degree cameras. The IDF’s ground forces plan to expand its use of these tools, as experts invent new vehicles based on creative and cutting-edge designs.”
Google has gotten a lot of attention recently for announcing its plans to develop a commercial automated vehicle for civilians, but there is nothing new to the idea. Such cars have been in the works since the 1920s. GM, Mercedes, and Toyota are just a few of the major automobile manufacturers which had such cars in development before Google’s announcement.