Most military ground vehicles are equipped with either tires or tracks but DARPA’s Ground X-Vehicle Technologies (GXV-T) program has given birth to a unique system which can transform from a wheel into a track.
Dubbed the “Reconfigurable Wheel-Track,” the device attempts to combine the fast speeds allowed by tires with the extreme off-roading ability provided by tracks. The RWT was developed by a team from Carnegie Mellon University’s National Robotics Engineering Center and the shape-shifting device can transition from a round wheel into a triangular track in two seconds while the vehicle is still moving.
The military apparently sees a lot of potential in this design as they noted it provides “instant improvements to tactical mobility and maneuverability on diverse terrains.”
DARPA didn’t say how the system works but the video shows it uses six different brackets which are each equipped with four different wheels. The brackets remain in an extended position when the RWT is in wheel mode and then retract to transform into track mode.
The Reconfigurable Wheel-Track is one of the technologies that was recently demonstrated as part of the GXV-T program which aims to improve mobility, survivability and effectiveness of future combat vehicles without using tons of armor. As Maj. Amber Walker explained, DARPA is taking a “radically different approach” to mobility by “avoiding armor and developing options to move quickly and be agile over all terrain.”
Among the other technologies that are part of the program are an electric in-hub motor and a multi-mode extreme travel suspension. The latter was developed by Pratt & Miller and has an independently adjusting hydraulic suspension for each wheel. This gives the model extreme off-road capability as the suspension has 6 feet (1.8 meters) of travel – 42 inches (1066 mm) upward and 30 inches (762 mm) downward.
Thanks to Roger for the tip!