May 19, 2017 - Dubois, WY. - There are four major axis of navigable elements. Land, air, water and space. On land, there are three subordinate environments. They are on road, off road and underground. Many of the early manufacturers of autonomous vehicles are addressing the on road component. Then, there are some that are venturing into the off road side of the business. This side will be more of a difficult path but will ultimately need to be formalized in order to navigate the world reliably.
As with any new technology there is yet to be a formalized nomenclature to describe the technology. One can go back for hundreds of years and see how a new technology must season and be accepted before it can be given a name that everyone accepts and understands. For example, predicted in the 1950's and manufactured in the 1960's, the Lunar Roving Vehicle was a version of a car. So, to date the names are autonomous off road self driving vehicles, autonomous off road vehicles, self driving off road car, self driving off road ATV, off-road autonomy to name a few. Here are some examples of ruggedized robotic systems that are going off road.
Many new types of vehicles will be autonomous. Cars, trucks, heavy trucks, heavy equipment, planes, motorcycles and so on. The ATV, UTV manufacturers are already making some of these units integration ready. Polaris is preparing a Ranger ATV to be used autonomously. Here is a company that is working integration. Another one as well.
Autonomous Off Road Vehicle uses. What are they good for? Theme parks have used semi autonomous vehicles for some time. Disneyland has a car in Carsland, based on the Cars movie franchise, named Lightning McQueen that interacts with the guests. But, you'll want more than a talking toy.
Here is the idea. To have a UTV that is both manual and autonomous. The ability to have a UTV/ATV that you can steer as you see fit. Then, as needed, plan a self calculated, self driving route or execute a preplanned, predefined route when desired. The hardware and software will either be an add on or built into the units as time progresses. Other uses include automated off road tours and search and rescue (SAR) assistance.
With this field moving fast, the pieces are in place. All that is left is to put them together.
- River Pilot