Colorado Testing Out Self-Driving Vehicles To Aid In Fighting Fires

Colorado is testing out self-driving ATVs to assist wildland firefighters at work. The state is working with Honda to test out the company’s emerging technology.    

Garrett Seddon is with the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control. He said firefighters often need to carry up to 50 pounds of equipment to a fire line.

“So where this vehicle would come in handy,” Seddon said, “is reducing that stress and fatigue on the firefighters so when they get to the fire line they can focus on the fire.”

Self-driving ATV at a burn scar area
Credit Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control
Self-driving ATV at a burn scar area

The autonomous all-terrain vehicles could be equipped with a basket to haul equipment, a tank and hose for extra water, and advanced medical supplies.

“Medical supplies are really heavy,” said Seddon, “and when a firefighter gets hurt, having that somewhere nearby staged or having it with the fire crew has that potential lifesaving capability.”

Seddon said the technology could be useful for other industries too. For example, it could mow the grass between solar panels in a solar field, or navigate agricultural fields.

A farmer could potentially put a crop sprayer on it or even a robotic arm to pick fruit. “So it’s really up the industry on how they want to put attachments on theirs,” he said.

Seddon said the vehicle did well when they tested it over boulders, fallen trees, and steep terrain on Colorado’s western slopes. He said Honda will likely do more testing this summer before the vehicle is offered for commercial sales.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUER in Salt Lake City, and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.