The U.S. Army just called on experts in the field to help it develop technology that would allow a ground combat vehicle like a tank to automatically detect, target, and engage enemy combatants.
The Advanced Targeting and Lethality Automated System (ATLAS) would theoretically give a tank the ability to do everything necessary to take down a target except pull the trigger — a human operator will still need to actually fire, according to Quartz.
Around the world, 26 countries have called to ban fully-autonomous weapons. But the U.S., with support from contractors like Boeing, has continued to develop AI-powered military technology with the aim of automating the battlefield. For now, human operators are still required by law to be the ones making the final decision to fire.
“It looks very much as if we are heading into an arms race where the current ban on full lethal autonomy will be dropped as soon as it’s politically convenient to do so,” UC Berkeley computer scientist Stuart Russell told Quartz.
The point of ATLAS, from the Army’s point of view, is to make combat more efficient.
“Anytime you can shave off even fractions of a second, that’s valuable,” Paul Scharre, program director at a national security think tank called the Center for New American Security, told Quartz. “A lot of engagement decisions in warfare are very compressed in time. If you’re in a tank and you see the enemy’s tank, they probably can also see you. And if you’re in range to hit them, they’re probably in range to hit you.”
READ MORE: The US Army wants to turn tanks into AI-powered killing machines [Quartz]
More on autonomous military technology: The Military Just Demoed an F-16 That Flies and Executes Strikes by Itself
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