Case #3: Autonomous systems – heterogeneous interacting smart systems

What is this technology area all about?

Autonomy includes, in a wide sense, the development of continuously smarter computer systems and their interaction with their environment. Important areas are:
Observation by combination of information from various sources;
Planning and analysis of possibilities to act;
Reasoning and decision making in collaboration between system and humans;
Acting such as autonomous driving of a vehicle, unmanned aircraft, mining activity, or tactile interaction with a human user.
Taken together, this means that various (heterogeneous) systems are interacting to solve tasks in a smart way together with humans.

How could this technology be applied?
Applications of interest include:
– Smart city – better support to the society regarding, for instance, green and efficient transports and logistics, efficient infrastructural maintenance and coping with emergency situations;
– Smart industry – more efficient development and production of products and enhanced quality through detailed monitoring and control;
– Smart mining – efficient mining without staff below ground level.

How could this technology be applied to the defense sector?
The technology area is of great importance for development of command-and-control systems, managing systems of systems, as well as various types of unmanned systems. Expected progress the next few years includes, for example, how sensors best could be used to support command-and-control decisions; for instance, how sensors onboard unmanned vehicles can be repositioned to provide optimal information for a decision at hand. This implies reasoning between human users and systems concerning possibilities to act and what corresponding consequences that the action leads to.
How does this technology match up against the Defense Innovation Initiative?
The development of autonomous systems is central to managing future complex conflict situations and is, hence, pointed out as a primary area in the defence innovation initiative. Today’s development is primarily focused on efforts for civil applications. An important example is WASP, where management of public safety and emergency situations is of high civil relevance, and also generates knowledge and solutions with military relevance.

What Technology Readiness Level are we talking about?
Solutions exist on every TRL level. We will see several generations of autonomy pass through all the TRL levels for the coming 25 years.

What are the thresholds against further advancement?
Aspects such as security, availability, robustness, and resilience need to be handled differently to make full use of the technological possibilities. Enhanced cooperation between the system cognition and human intelligence, regarding potential benefits and costs, is important – for example enabling manned and unmanned air traffic to share airspace in a safe and efficient manner.

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