The description optionally crewed land vehicles is self-evident. However robotic land vehicles (RLV – not an acronym used by the Australian Army) need to be distinguished from uncrewed land vehicles (UGV). The latter have a high level of interaction with the person controlling them.
Robotic land vehicles are capable of autonomous behaviour for quite long periods of time, operating without the need for a human controller. They use their sensors to determine the next action to take in the context of the human-provided mission goal. Some, for instance, can even disarm or remove explosives and repair themselves without outside assistance.
The distinction between UGVs and RLVs is fine in theory but is rather harder to apply in practice.
Robotic, uncrewed and optionally crewed land vehicles can be used to penetrate enemy defences, launch attack drones, fire anti-tank missiles, breach obstacles, conduct surveillance under enemy fire and deliver ammunition amid intense firefights which are all missions they are anticipated to perform. To be able to send these types of vehicle into harm’s way without risking personnel can be a very attractive option for field commanders.
ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF ROBOTIC LAND VEHICLES
RLVs are autonomous robots that operate without the need for a human controller. They use their sensors to determine the next action to take in the context of the human-provided mission goal.
The fully autonomous robot can collect information about the environment such as creating maps of building interiors. They can detect objects of interest such as people and their vehicles. They can travel between waypoints without human navigation assistance.
By using their inbuilt artificial intelligence, robots can learn or gain new capabilities without outside assistance. They can adjust strategies based on their surroundings. They can adapt to surroundings and can develop a sense of ethics regarding mission goals.
The technology programmed into unmanned robotics allows the soldier to spot enemies on patrol or waiting to ambush coalition forces. They can help save lives. Unmanned robots can target enemy snipers in the area.
But RLVs also have disadvantages. They can be detected by enemy troops, or be blown up by mines. In certain situations, they may overheat, meaning they are vulnerable to being stuck in that same position until the vehicle has cooled down sufficiently.
If an RLV is used to clear a mine field, but it breaks down during this operation, the element of surprise is eliminated.
Bandwidth will always be the problem with the wireless solutions, as the RLV needs to occasionally report back to its base revealing what it has detected.
RLVs with weapons can violate the code of the ethics for its computers which says that they are not supposed to cause any harm to any human being. Therefore, these robots are not fully autonomous and they won’t make the decision whether to shoot and kill an enemy combatant on their own.
Optionally crewed land vehicles, which might exercise the option of a driver and other crew when they move around, might be committed to enter or attack well-defended positions which could prove fatal for some or all the humans on board.