A new initiative by the US Army suggests another significant step towards lethal autonomous weapons. There are hundreds of autonomous and semiautonomous missile-defense systems now in use, according to researchers. ATLAS would be the first use of such weaponry by ground combat vehicles.
The system would ideally maximize the amount of time for human response and allow the human operator to make a decision. This can reduce the possibility of civilian casualties, fratricide, and other unintended consequences. It will also keep soldiers safer on the battlefield.
Experts were called in the field by the U.S army for help in developing the technologies allowing a vehicle of the ground combat like a tank for automatically detecting, targetting and engaging enemy combatants.
The Advanced Targeting and Lethality Automated System 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, AI-powered military technology was developed 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.
We are really heading towards the 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 are in a tank and you see the enemy's tank, they probably can also see you. And if you are in range to hit them, they are probably in range to hit you.