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Dead-end? Robotic platoon can now reverse with trailers attached

October 15, 2020  - By
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Photo: Robotic Research

Photo: Robotic Research

Robotic Research LLC has added Retrotraverse to its AutoDrive-M autonomy kit. The autonomy kit is equipped on the U.S. Army’s Palettized Load System (PLS) logistics trucks.

Robotic Research demonstrated the Retrotraverse capabilities with three of the U.S. Army’s PLS trucks, each towing trailers. “This is a major step forward for our company and has broad application both in autonomy and platooning. The capability solves the potentially life-threatening problem of an autonomous platoon of military vehicles being unable to navigate out of a dangerous situation,” said Alberto Lacaze, president of Robotic Research. “This automated platooning capability will ultimately extend the reach of soldiers without putting them in harm’s way.”

The Retrotraverse feature allows a platoon of heavy-duty trucks with trailers to autonomously reverse. Several autonomous vehicle providers in the trucking industry are demonstrating platooning in benign conditions, where the weather is ideal and road surfaces are smooth and marked.

Robotic Research has been specifically focusing on addressing the edge cases, such as poor weather, dust and off-road conditions, to ensure a robust autonomous system that is necessary for operating in all conditions and during mission-critical operations for the military.

If a platoon drives into a dead end, or similar edge case where it cannot make a U-turn, the platoon of vehicles with trailers needs to be able to reverse out of the situation. Retrotraverse can make this happen.

“Anyone who has backed up a truck with a trailer knows how difficult it is to navigate,” said Joe Putney, director of commercial systems at Robotic Research. “The autonomous Retrotraverse feature was able to reverse a truck and trailer faster than even our most skilled drivers. This feature is not just lifesaving, it’s time-saving, and it has the ability to reduce one of the greatest pains truck drivers have.”

In 2018, Robotic Research was awarded a three-year, $49.7 million contract by the U.S. Army to provide its autonomy kit for large convoy resupply vehicles. Robotic Research has since delivered nearly 100 unmanned platooning trucks.

About the Author:


Senior Editor Tracy Cozzens joined GPS World magazine in 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.

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