DARPA Builds a Shape-Shifting Wheel that Doubles as a Tank Track
Humvee Demonstrator Goes from Wheels to Tracks in One Second
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is keen to advance military technology as much as possible, including the government’s vehicles. As part of its new Ground X-Vehicle Technologies (GXV-T) program, DARPA introduced a variety of experiments, including a multipurpose wheel that can transform into a track in about one second.
Called the Reconfigurable Wheel-Track (RWT), it switches from a round wheel attached by the hub to a triangular track and back again on the fly and almost seamlessly. The agency released a video of the RWT and its other GXV-T projects, embedded below (the experimental track/wheel Humvee makes an appearance at 2:21). DARPA partner Carnegie Mellon University National Robotics Engineering Center demonstrated the new technology.
The RWT could make off-highway travel easier and safer for ground troops, as the track configuration enables better traction in mud, deep sand, and snow, while the wheel mode allows for high-speed travel on harder surfaces. And the quick switch between the two would allow driver and passengers to more easily tackle a variety of terrain without risking getting stuck.
For our part, we can’t help but think how cool it’d be to put a set of RWTs on our Week to Wheelin’ Jeep or any number of the projects we’ve got on staff. Alas, DARPA’s latest baby is experimental military technology at this point, but sometime in the future it might see active duty, potentially trickling into the consumer market in the somewhat distant future.