A paragraph or two a day from my forthcoming book FROM A TO B: HOW LOGISTICS FUELS AMERICAN POWER AND PROSPERITY:
[Then-Darpa boss Tony] Tether talks about developing robotic convoys for the military. This is the application that Wisconsin manufacturer Oshkosh imagines when it decides to enter its fifteen-ton Marine Corps supply truck in the [2007 Darpa Urban Challenge] race. But every other team picks a lightweight civilian vehicle, and talk about all the amazing potential commercial spin-offs from all this robot design work.
Sven Strohband from Volkswagen, which has donated a Passat to Stanford University’s team, says that robotic vehicles, constantly beaming messages to each other, would be able to line up in each other’s slipstreams on the highway, timing subtle movements to stay in line. This ballet might boost fuel efficiency by as much as 20 percent, reduce traffic jams, and help avoid the kinds of accidents human drivers get into when they’re tired, distracted or plain stupid.