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Oshkosh Unveils Driver-Assist Systems for Military Trucks

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If Oshkosh Corp. has its way, military trucks will soon feature driver-assist safety systems similar to those found on commercial vehicles, from the BWM X5 to the Ford Focus.

Just a bigger, more intense system.

The Oshkosh, Wisconsin-based truck-maker on Monday unveiled the Oshkosh Surround View and Forward Collision Warning Systems on a version of its blast-resistant truck, known as the Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected All-Terrain Vehicle, or M-ATV -- a hulking, 25,000-pound vehicle built to better protect troops from roadside bombs in Afghanistan.

"Troop safety is the highest concern regardless of the military duty performed," John Urias, president of the company's defense unit, said in a statement. "Reducing vehicle accidents large and small translates into a more productive force and significant cost savings for the Department of Defense."

The driver-assist technology, introduced at the annual Association of the United States Army conference in Washington, D.C., includes several cameras mounted on the top and rear of the vehicle, two electronic displays inside the cab, a flashing warning-light beneath the windshield and -- as if the blinking lightsaber-like beam on the front glass wasn't enough -- a vibration device beneath the seat.

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John Beck, a chief engineer at Oshkosh who helped develop the company's TerraMax unmanned ground vehicle, said the forward-collision warning system uses a special type of camera that incorporates a computer processor running software designed to detect people, animals and other obstacles in the roadway or path.

He declined to specify the supplier of the product, but said it's used by many companies in the automotive industry.

For the surround-view system, drivers can press a button on the center console to toggle between cameras. (This reporter couldn't resist clicking to check out the view from behind the truck -- a nice shot of the trade show floor). The entire system can be expanded to accommodate more cameras and functionality, he said.

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Beck also declined to say how much the kit would cost, but it's probably in the range of a few thousand dollars -- a fraction of the overall cost of the trucks.

The Defense Department spent nearly $50 billion over the past decade to acquire some 25,000 MRAPs made by several firms. The trucks weigh 25,000– to 50,000 pounds and feature V-shaped hulls that deflected blasts outward. The rapid-acquisition effort was spearheaded by then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

While thousands of MRAPs have since been scrapped, mothballed or handed down to local police departments, the U.S. military expects to keep several thousand of them in the tactical wheeled vehicle fleet and transfer thousands more to foreign governments. The Army has awarded some contracts to upgrade, or refurbish, some of the gun trucks and ambulance trucks it plans to keep in the fleet.

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