The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has announced a new research project to enhance the learning capabilities of computers and computing systems. Known as Assured Autonomy, DARPA is hoping the project will improve the efficiency, predictability and overall utility of autonomous systems in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and other driverless vehicles.
Last year, the Defense Science Board released a report on the state of autonomous systems in which it stressed the need. When used for military applications, autonomous systems must be trusted to execute their tasks in a safe and efficient manner. DARPA says that Assured Autonomy will help military personnel develop a stronger trust with such autonomous systems beginning at the design stage. Assured Autonomy will also allow military personnel to incorporate changes into these systems, further increasing the trust they have in autonomous technology.
So, how exactly does Assured Autonomy work? According to Next Big Future, the project seeks to achieve a level of safety with autonomous systems that’s at least as safe as a human-operated system for the same application. It does this by crunching numbers of safety incidents of both manned and unmanned systems while also conducting real-world trials. The ultimate goal is to create safer and more effective autonomous systems in the military.
There are also limitations to autonomous systems, however. Research shows, for instance, that safety approaches using this algorithmic-based manner are limited. Furthermore, they require millions of trials, all of which costs time, money and resources. Nonetheless, DARPA is taking its Assured Autonomy project to the next level, hoping that it will improve the trust that military personnel have in their autonomous systems.
When speaking about the new project, DARPA program manager Sandeep Neema explained that the “tremendous advances” have already been made in the field of autonomous technology.
“Tremendous advances have been made in the last decade in constructing autonomy systems, as evidenced by the proliferation of a variety of unmanned vehicles. These advances have been driven by innovations in several areas, including sensing and actuation, computing, control theory, design methods, and modeling and simulation,” said Sandeep Neema of DARPA.
You might be wondering when DARPA’s Assured Autonomy project will be complete. According to the organization, the project has three phases with a projected date of completion within the next four years. Of course, the project may get pushed back by months or even years, which is common for such large-scale military research projects.