We all have heard the phrase — “don’t try to reinvent the wheel”. But, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency or DARPA for short, did just that. They literally reinvented the wheel.
The wheel we’re talking about is called Reconfigurable Wheel-Track. These wheels can transform from a wheel to track and back again in less than two seconds while the vehicle is moving. Round wheels allow the vehicle to move quickly on hard surfaces, while tracks are better suited to soft ground.
When in wheel mode, the wheels rotate as one solid unit, and when they transform into tracks, only the tracks move while the inner mechanism stays still.
The wheels have been developed under DARPA’s Ground X-Vehicle Technologies (GXV-T) program, by a team from Carnegie Mellon University National Robotics Engineering Center or CMU NREC.
These are of course for defense vehicles. DARPA says that their GXV-T program aims to improve mobility, survivability, safety, and effectiveness of future combat vehicles without piling on armor.
Under the same GXV-T program, Pratt & Miller have come up with a really flexible Multi-mode Extreme Travel Suspension (METS). The system aims to enable high-speed travel over rough terrain while keeping the vehicle upright and minimizing occupant discomfort.
The demo vehicle incorporates standard military 20-inch wheels, an advanced short-travel suspension of 4- to 6-inches, and a high-travel suspension that extends up to 6 feet — 42-inches upward and 30-inches downward.