FORT CARSON, Colo. – The Smart Transportation Testbed, a yearlong pilot program to plan, develop, demonstrate and employ automated vehicle (AV) technologies, is currently underway at Fort Carson, Colorado. The project, managed by the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC), is designed to determine how AV technology can help the military reduce transportation costs, improve public safety and enable faster delivery of services.
A joint collaboration within the Army, the program was implemented in partnership with Fort Carson, the Assistant Secretary of the Army, Installations, Energy, and Environment, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Department of Transportation, nonprofit organization US Ignite, the University of Colorado at Boulder, the City of Colorado Springs and their Office of Innovation and the Colorado Department of Transportation. It is expected to serve as a research and development model for smart military installations across the nation.
Throughout the coming year, researchers will evaluate how AV technology can enhance mission readiness and assess the potential to reduce base operating costs, improve safety and quality of life for military service members and their families and provide transportation services more efficiently and effectively.
“This research will advance our ability to leverage automated transportation systems to improve mission readiness and mission assurance at installations in areas that include infrastructure, operations, security, economics, communications and planning to meet our national defense objectives,” said Jim Allen, a research civil engineer at the ERDC’s Construction Engineering Research Laboratory. “Smart military posts — like smart cities around the country — must explore advancements in mobility and automation that leverage sensors and big data to optimize operational efficiencies and improve the lives of Soldiers and their families.”
Through a contract with First Transit and Perrone Robotics, test operations began in July 2020 with a Polaris GEM e6 automated shuttle deployed at Fort Carson with a second shuttle due to arrive in September 2020. The electric vehicles carry up to six people at a top speed of 25 miles per hour and support Level 5 automation capability — meaning they can perform all driving functions independently under any condition.
As a safety measure, a steward will remain on board during shuttle operations with the ability to take over manual control at any time. Regular passenger service will begin in the fall with additional safety protocols in place to protect against the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
“In the current project the AV shuttles will provide transportation service on Fort Carson, but it is desirable at a later time to better integrate transportation on the installation with the surrounding community mobility services,” said Allen. “The shuttle routes and times of service will complement existing personal transportation options on Fort Carson and be published soon.”
Additionally, researchers are using the project as an opportunity to focus on artificial intelligence and data analytics.
“The project seeks to utilize a 4G network to exploit technology capabilities that leverage AV sensors, then integrate that data with other data sources to inform decision making,” said Allen. “The goal is to conduct edge computing while maintaining cybersecurity and building an efficient data architecture that fuses data into useful information and builds knowledge over time. AVs will also be deployed at the airfield to detect and analyze foreign object debris that can be harmful to both aircraft and personnel during operations.”
The project, funded by a Congressional program increase provided in the defense appropriation, is administered and managed through the ERDC.
The ERDC, headquartered in Vicksburg, Mississippi, is a premier research and development organization that solves the nation’s most challenging problems in civil and military engineering, geospatial sciences, water resources and environmental sciences. As one of the most diverse engineering and scientific research organizations in the world, the ERDC conducts research and development in support of the Soldier, military installations, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ civil works mission, as well as for other federal, state and municipal authorities.
Fort Carson, located near the city of Colorado Springs, Colorado, is a leader in innovation and partner on multiple “Installation of the Future” research and development strategies such as microgrids, clean energy and smart transportation. It is a division-level power projection platform that experiences all four seasons and has a large installation footprint that integrates both living and training space to provide a great test bed environment. The installation is home to the 4th Infantry Division, the 10th Special Forces Group, the 4th Security Force Assistance Brigade, the 440th Civil Affairs Battalion, the 71st Ordnance Group, the 4th Engineer Battalion, the 759th Military Police Battalion, the 10th Combat Support Hospital, the 43rd Sustainment Brigade, the Army Field Support Battalion-Fort Carson, the 423rd Transportation Company and the 13th Air Support Operations Squadron of the United States Air Force, as well as, hosts to many units of the Army Reserve, Navy Reserve and the Colorado Army National Guard.