COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Artificial intelligence has been the stuff of science fiction for decades, but an Aggie researcher is working to make it a reality for protecting U.S. soldiers inside combat vehicles.
“This project looks at sharing jobs between humans and autonomy," said Thomas Ferris, an associate professor in the Wm Michael Barnes Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Texas A&M. "This requires knowing which jobs are best suited for humans and which for the AI agents, and how to ensure mission effectiveness of the human-vehicle system as responsibilities and roles change."
The Crew Optimization and Augmentation Technologies (COAT) program hopes to synchronize man and machine into a better combat system. The U.S. Army Futures Command plan calls for using AI to assist soldiers inside motorized weapons systems like tanks and armored transport carriers.
The new program will increase automation into the cockpits, even giving drivers advanced displays and interfaces. Ferris said the tech will take the load off of operating crews and reduced the number of personnel needed – ultimately, putting more soldiers out of harm's way.
"Even if a vehicle is hit they're going to be embedded in the center they don't need to be able to pop up and look outside in the open air which is typically how things go now," Ferris said. "That's also when they're exposed to more risk. So there won't be as much of a need to be exposed at all. I think that's the main way that you'd say this is an improvement in their safety."
Ferris said his long-term goal with the COAT program is to assess if soldiers are being bombarded with too much information in real-time. Then, using the AI system, deliver the most critical information to the soldier for a safe and successful mission.