You may not be able to get a square peg into a round hole, but the US military have unveiled technology that allows them to transform a standard wheel into a triangular tank track in just two seconds.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) have published a video showing the reconfigurable wheel track (RWT), which can flick between the two modes without even stopping, all while under the full weight of a Humvee!
A team from Carnegie Mellon University National Robotics Engineering Center (CMU NREC) demonstrated the technology, which allows “for instant improvements to tactical mobility and maneuverability on diverse terrains”.
The two modes make for the ultimate all-terrain vehicle – one that is capable of slogging through soft, sludgy surfaces without fear of bogging by utilising the track, before flipping over to wheel mode, to allow for smooth, speedy transportation on harder, more reliable surfaces.
The technology was unveiled as part of a series of new developments to aid in the United States’ ongoing improvements to defence.
Other notable developments that can be seen in the above video include the electric in-hub motor, which puts individual motors into wheels, rather than from a central hub, allowing for “heightened acceleration and maneuverability with optimal torque, traction, power, and speed over rough or smooth terrain”.
Then, there was multi-mode extreme travel suspension (METS), which is designed to improve comfort and reliability over particularly rough terrain, with the ability to “tackle steep slopes and grades by actively and independently adjusting the hydraulic suspension on each wheel of the vehicle”.
It’s all part of DARPA’s mission “to make pivotal investments in breakthrough technologies for national security”, which they have been carrying out since 1958 – making this the agency’s 60th year in existence.
Some of their other notable developments include ARPANET – an early precursor to the internet – the computer mouse and unmanned aerial vehicles.