On 8 November 2022, Rheinmetall announced that they had successfully demonstrated truck automated driving with logistics trucks during two events in 2022. The first was during the European Land Robot Trial (ELROB 2022) held near Vienna between 30 May and 3 June, while the second was an operational demonstration (OPDEMO) conducted between 26 September and 7 October at the US Army’s Grafenwöhr Training Area in Bavaria. Both demonstrations come as part of Interoperable Robotic Convoy (InterRoC) research project, being run by Rheinmetall on behalf of the German Federal Office for Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support (BAAINBw).
The InterRoC project is presently being tested using two Rheinmetall-MAN HX2 military trucks, each equipped with an autonomy kit (A-Kit), and which operate in accordance with the leader-follower principle. With this principle, the first vehicle is driven manually, while the pursuit truck(s) drives autonomously following the path of the lead vehicle. The follower vehicle(s) are manned only by a backup driver, who can intervene in case of a malfunction. According to Rheinmetall, both primary functions, such as steering and accelerating, as well as secondary functions such as starting the engine, the lights, differential locks, etc., are automated. The current project uses an autonomy kit furnished by the German authorities, and originally provided by the US government under a project agreement. Rheinmetall’s role in the programme includes modifying the base vehicles and integrating the autonomous functionality, in addition to with commissioning and testing.
The US Army uses the same autonomy kits in its Oshkosh trucks as part of its Autonomous Ground Resupply (AGR) project, which allows for mixed US-German convoys using this equipment. This capability was demonstrated at the aforementioned OPDEMO in the Grafenwöhr Training Area, with two-vehicle convoys and five-vehicle convoys, with a maximum convoy length of 1,100 m. In total they covered over 1,051 km during the two-week trial, which included overcoming some fairly challenging terrain conditions such as 40% gradients. Rheinmetall stated that, the autonomous vehicles were able to operate continuously for over 75 minutes without manual intervention, and that the convoy could be dynamically reconfigured with minimal idle time. At the earlier ELROB 2022 trial, the Rheinmetall team took second place in the autonomous Convoying category, finishing behind the Munich-based University of the Bundeswehr.
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