DARPA design shifts round wheels to triangular tracks in a moving vehicle

As part of its Ground X-Vehicle Technologies program, DARPA is showcasing some new defense vehicle tech that’s as futuristic as it is practical. One of the innovations, a reconfigurable wheel-track, comes out of Carnegie Mellon University’s National Robotics Engineering Center in partnership with DARPA. The wheel-track is just one of a handful of designs meant to improve survivability of combat vehicles beyond just up-armoring them.

As you can see in the video, the reconfigurable wheel-track demonstrates a seamless transition between a round wheel shape and a triangular track in about two seconds, and the shift between its two modes can be executed while the vehicle is in motion without cutting speed. Round wheels are optimal for hard terrain while track-style treads allow an armored vehicle to move freely on softer ground.

According to Ground X-Vehicle Program Manager Major Amber Walker, the tech offers “instant improvements to tactical mobility and maneuverability on diverse terrains” — an advantage you can see on display in the GIF below.

While wheel technology doesn’t sound that exciting, the result is visually impressive and smooth enough to prompt a double-take.

The other designs featured in the video are noteworthy as well, with one offering a windowless navigation technology called Virtual Perspectives Augmenting Natural Experiences (V-PANE) that integrates video from an array of mounted LIDAR and video cameras to recreate a real-time model of a windowless vehicle’s surroundings. Another windowless cockpit design creates “virtual windows” for a driver, with 3D goggles for depth enhancement, head-tracking and wraparound window display screens displaying data outside the all-terrain vehicle in real time.