Total Traction: DARPA Shows Track That Morphs into a Wheel on the Fly

The Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency, better known as DARPA, is continually working to bring the best military technology to the field, and these new tracks will certainly help get vehicles where they need to go. 

The new reconfigurable wheel-track (RWT) is meant to be a best of both worlds solution, allowing for fast travel on hard surfaces when it is a wheel and maximum traction on all types of surfaces when it is a triangular track. Best of all, the RWT can change its shape while on the move, allowing for quick transition from wheel to track. The system was designed by a team from Carnegie Mellon University National Robotics Engineering Center.

The innovative new wheel system was shown as part of the Ground X-Vehicle Technologies program, which is looking to improve mobility, safety, survivability and effectiveness of future combat vehicles. Other tech revealed includes electric in-hub motors, and new multi-mode extreme travel suspension that allowed for up to six feet of extension, 42 inches upward and 30 inches downward.

Crew augmentation is another area that was explored, with teams designing virtual windows that can be seen while wearing 3D glasses, eliminating an obvious weak point in the vehicle’s armor.

Whether or not something like the RWT ever makes it to mainstream production remains to be seen.