By Mrs. Melissa K Buckley (Leonard Wood)December 5, 2013
Planning for the future with "greener" transportation for the Ozarks was the focus of Transportation Days Monday and Tuesday on Fort Leonard Wood.
"We are making Fort Leonard Wood a more sustainable installation, so it will be here doing the Army's mission now and forever," said Kevin Palmer, Center for Sustainable Solutions. "I think it's important to understand that the Army uses a lot of resources to do what it does. The idea behind sustainability is to ensure we are using those resources in a way that we can continue to use them in the future."
The Leonard Wood Institute and Sustainable Ozarks Partnership sponsored the displays consisting of plug-in hybrid automobiles, a vRide vanpooling vehicle and a robotic transit system.
"We are looking at electric cars for the government fleet. There are some really good options out there," Palmer said.
The vRide program that began in November already has 14 vanpools consisting of 83 military and civilians. Palmer said this helps with transportation costs and traffic reduction on the installation.
The U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center through their strategic initiative of Applied Robotics for Installation and Base Operations is currently working with the Garrison and the Logistics Readiness Center to identify means to improve performance of transportation systems on post.
TARDEC's transportation demonstration consisted of an automated electric transit system -- which looks like a robotic tram.
Maj. Gen. Leslie Smith, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood commander took the first ride on the robotic transit system.
"It was very nice. It was extremely smooth. I can see a lot of capabilities for it," Smith said.
Smith said he is looking at a bigger picture. He said he would like to see the concepts that are being developed and tested here on Fort Leonard Wood, such as the robotic system, eventually take the place of people on deployments one day.
"It's great technology. We may develop the ideas here, but they can be used across the United States and the world. A lot of the capabilities and changes have come from military applications," Smith said. "The less places we have Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines in harm's way, the better."
According to Palmer, the Army is looking at an automated bus system to transport troops and material on post.
"We are looking at a more traditional 40 to 80-person bus. There is a big robotics effort that the Army is looking at to try to better understand how they can use robotic systems in missions downrange. The research that is being done here can be applied to the deployed systems," Palmer said. "The technology is developed. We are looking at how to logistically set up the installation. We are in the feasibility stages now. We are also looking at an electric vehicle to move material on post."
He said one of the main reasons the electronic transit system was brought on post was to let folks ride it and get use to seeing a robotic vehicle. He also said people shouldn't be afraid of it because the system's ability to sense people and other vehicles is pretty sophisticated.
"It's probably better than having a driver behind the wheel," Palmer said.
Smith was happy to see all of the new transportation ideas at Transportation Days.
"We have to be the lead for this region when it comes to sustainability in the Ozarks. We need to become more efficient in how we move people around the installation," Smith said. "Have an open mind about changes when it comes to transportation, you are either going to be in the lead or trailing behind. My goal is to always be on the leading edge, so we can shape the ideas to fit our needs."
Palmer agreed. He, too, was pleased by the innovations in "green" transportation he was seeing at Transportation Days.
"It's important to know that there is new technology out there that will helps us do what we do now -- but better. It's more efficient and less expensive," he said.