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Technologies Powering Autonomous Vehicles

Technologies Powering Autonomous Vehicles

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Self-driving cars, drones, bomb-sensing robots – all of these are technology marvels unto themselves. They hold the promise to change how we move ourselves and commerce through cities and how our military conducts operations in theater. However, the technology in these vehicles alone is not enough to power this change. The viability of autonomous vehicles is dependent on and driven by advancements in a number of other technologies. 

Geospatial intelligence

Geospatial data ties information to a location. This data is collected from a network of technologies, including satellites, mobile sensors, ground-control stations, and aerial images. This data provides the maps that autonomous vehicles use to navigate an environment. In fact, city planners and engineers are able to detect markings and features on the ground, such as bicycle lanes and traffic direction, and feed those into the systems that direct vehicles. 

Artificial Intelligence

“Autonomous” vehicles have traditionally been directed by explicit instructions programmed into their systems. They are told to go to a specific location by a specific route and then to return when a certain objective is met or when power levels reach a certain threshold. Artificial intelligence (AI) however, is enabling a more true realization of vehicles being autonomous. Using AI, a vehicle can be given an objective but also decide its speed and route based on the real-time data it is collecting.  

Electric Vehicles

A large majority of autonomous vehicles are eclectic. As battery life and power distribution improve for electric power, so will the options for autonomous use. The Army is exploring the expansion of electric vehicles in tactical roles as they have several advantages over gas-powered equivalents. Electric vehicles are almost completely silent when in operation and generate very little heat, making them harder to detect. They also have incredibly high torque, allowing them to accelerate quickly and handle well at all speeds. They also tend to have fewer moving parts, which results in lower maintenance requirements and fewer breakdowns from battlefield wear and tear.


The connectivity speed of 5G supports the use of cloud and edge computing, both critical to the operation of autonomous vehicles. Autonomous vehicles need continuous internet access for real-time data. The low latency and high reliability of 5G are the driving force (pun intended) behind making self-driving cars a reality, as autonomous systems can be more accurate, responsive, and dependable. 

To learn more about the evolution of autonomous vehicles and how they are being used across government, check out these resources from GovWhitePapers and GovEvents: 

  • The Evolution of 5G Spectrum (white paper) – It is clear that more capacity will be needed for the variety of potential use cases over the next decade as 5G continues to evolve beyond mobile broadband smartphone use cases. Spectrum is the “raw material” needed to support new services. It is important to create a runway of different spectrum types so spectrum can continue to fuel potential future use cases such as XR, connected cars, and the metaverse.
  • State of Mobile Network Evolution (white paper) – Mobile communications is a rapidly evolving field that encompasses various technologies, applications, and services. This white paper summarizes new national and regional initiatives on 6G, along with exploring three promising technological building blocks: Full Duplex, Joint Communication and Sensing (JCAS), and Intelligent Surfaces.
  • Designing Ecosystems of Intelligence from First Principles (white paper) – This white paper lays out a vision of research and development in the field of artificial intelligence for the next decade (and beyond). Its outcome is a cyber-physical ecosystem of natural and synthetic sense-making, in which humans are integral participants—which they call “shared intelligence.”
  • Department of Defense: 2023 Data, Analytics, and Artificial Intelligence Adoption Strategy (white paper) – The Department of Defense (DoD) has been investing in AI and AI-enabled systems for over 60 years. Today, data, analytics, and AI technologies are increasingly available to DoD components, providing value to our service members. Learn how the DoD is experimenting with AI through research and development, integrating these technologies into business and warfighting functions, and laying the foundation for their use at scale.
  • Government Fleet Expo & Conference (May 7-10, 2024; Louisville, KY) – GFX serves as a hub for public fleet professionals. The event provides specialized training, networking with peers, and access to the latest products and technology.
  • Defense Tech Week (May 20-24, 2024; virtual) – Emerging technologies like drones and other autonomous systems and concepts like information and electronic warfare have taken center stage — alongside foundational investments in cybersecurity, cloud computing and artificial intelligence, and the wider push to Joint All-Domain Command and Control, or JADC2. Join influential leaders and innovators to discuss technology’s critical role in the future of modern U.S. defense and national security. 
  • 2024 5G Forum (May 22, 2024; Falls Church, VA) – The U.S. government is at the forefront of exploring and utilizing 5G’s potential to improve national security, public safety, citizen services, and other critical federal missions. This event will address the essential role 5G plays in advancing edge computing, supporting CJADC2, building smarter cities, and augmenting warfighter capabilities across multiple domains.

Look for more insights on autonomous vehicles by searching GovWhitePapers and GovEvents.



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