Israel’s killer robot cars

As Israeli ground forces literally stand on the brink of invading Gaza, they are likely being aided by the world’s first operational unmanned ground vehicle, the Guardium, which is already prowling the border between Israel and Gaza. Looking like a Smart Car on steroids, the Guardium is an unmanned armored car that carries more than ...

Israel Defense Forces
Israel Defense Forces
Israel Defense Forces

As Israeli ground forces literally stand on the brink of invading Gaza, they are likely being aided by the world's first operational unmanned ground vehicle, the Guardium, which is already prowling the border between Israel and Gaza.

Looking like a Smart Car on steroids, the Guardium is an unmanned armored car that carries more than 660-pounds of cameras, electronic sensors and weapons, according to the Israel Defense Forces' blog (notice how the blog says it has built-in protection against denial of service attacks, that's expensive). The killer go-kart can be operated in real time by a driver sitting in distant command center -- similar to the way armed drones are flown by far-off pilots -- or they can be programmed to "run patrol on predetermined routes without human intervention," according to the blog. (Human Rights Watch will love that last bit.)

The Guardium can even "react to unscheduled events, in line with a set of guidelines specifically programmed for the site characteristics and security routines," brags its manufacturer, Israel-based G-NIUS Unmanned Ground Systems. (The Guardium is basically an armored version of the U.S.-made Tomcar desert buggies.) That means that if the Guardium sees something it doesn't like, it can apparently take action all on its own -- likely alerting a command center to the presence of something suspicious, not opening fire without notifying a human operator first.

As Israeli ground forces literally stand on the brink of invading Gaza, they are likely being aided by the world’s first operational unmanned ground vehicle, the Guardium, which is already prowling the border between Israel and Gaza.

Looking like a Smart Car on steroids, the Guardium is an unmanned armored car that carries more than 660-pounds of cameras, electronic sensors and weapons, according to the Israel Defense Forces’ blog (notice how the blog says it has built-in protection against denial of service attacks, that’s expensive). The killer go-kart can be operated in real time by a driver sitting in distant command center — similar to the way armed drones are flown by far-off pilots — or they can be programmed to "run patrol on predetermined routes without human intervention," according to the blog. (Human Rights Watch will love that last bit.)

The Guardium can even "react to unscheduled events, in line with a set of guidelines specifically programmed for the site characteristics and security routines," brags its manufacturer, Israel-based G-NIUS Unmanned Ground Systems. (The Guardium is basically an armored version of the U.S.-made Tomcar desert buggies.) That means that if the Guardium sees something it doesn’t like, it can apparently take action all on its own — likely alerting a command center to the presence of something suspicious, not opening fire without notifying a human operator first.

While the U.S. Army is conducting very, very limited trial runs of robo-jeeps in Afghanistan, the Guardium is fully operational, according to the IDF. Unlike the Army’s robot jeeps, which are pretty much serving as pack mules that accompany infantry units, the Guardiums are being used in a similar manner as UAVs, running patrols by themselves and using their sensors, equipped with "auto-target acquisition," to look for the enemy and their weapons and…well, we’ll see. The IDF says the little robo-cars can "use various forceful methods to eliminate" threats.

"In case of suspicious activity, the Guardium can quickly respond and hold the suspicious elements back until manned troops arrive, or use various forceful methods to eliminate the threat," reads the blog. "Its many sensors, including video and thermal cameras with auto-target acquisition, sensitive microphones, powerful loudspeakers and a two way radio, combined with a top-speed of up to [50 miles per hour] make the Guardium a very reliable partner on routine patrols in dangerous environments" (emphasis IDF’s).

Click here for more pictures of the Guardium.

John Reed is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He comes to FP after editing Military.com’s publication Defense Tech and working as the associate editor of DoDBuzz. Between 2007 and 2010, he covered major trends in military aviation and the defense industry around the world for Defense News and Inside the Air Force. Before moving to Washington in August 2007, Reed worked in corporate sales and business development for a Swedish IT firm, The Meltwater Group in Mountain View CA, and Philadelphia, PA. Prior to that, he worked as a reporter at the Tracy Press and the Scotts Valley Press-Banner newspapers in California. His first story as a professional reporter involved chasing escaped emus around California’s central valley with Mexican cowboys armed with lassos and local police armed with shotguns. Luckily for the giant birds, the cowboys caught them first and the emus were ok. A New England native, Reed graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a dual degree in international affairs and history.

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