In a small taste of things to come in military operations, the US Marine Corps has tested a self-driving mini-truck as part of the 2014 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) international naval exercise.

The vehicle was developed in a partnership between the US Naval Surface Warfare Centre Dahlgren Division, Virginia Tech University and TORC Robotics. Together, they’ve transformed the Marine Corps’ Internally Transportable Vehicle (ITV) – a jeep-like truck – into a fully functioning autonomous vehicle capable of cruising at a leisurely 8 mph (13 km/h).

The ITV is fitted with TORC Robotics’ Ground Unmanned Support Surrogate (GUSS) system, which was also employed in the 2010 RIMPAC war games.

In the latest tests, it demonstrated the ability to follow someone wearing a beacon at a predetermined distance.

The aim of the vehicle is to be able to keep soldiers safe by reducing their exposure to dangerous environments, as well as lighten their load by carrying supplies weighing up to 1,600 pounds (725 kg) or transporting the wounded to safety.

If the vehicle gets stuck, a soldier can use a robotic controller to take direct control of the vehicle, or jump into the driver’s seat and take control at the flick of a switch.

The ITV is small enough to be carried on a Marine Corps Chinook helicopter or an Osprey tilt-rotor. It’s still in the testing phase, but we can expect to see similar options in the field in the next five years.

GUSS can be seen lugging cargo here, while the video below provided a view from inside the driverless cabin.

Via: Ars Technica