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Travel across difficult terrain usually involves a lot of compromise. Tracks will get you where you need to go, but they’re slow whenever you’re covering open ground. A revolutionary technology for vehicles will make them less constrained by terrain and better at maneuvering against opponents. US DARPA’s new Reconfigurable Wheel Track (RWT) program is a set of wheels that can turn into tracks on the fly. RWT can transform from tracks to wheels and back again in two seconds. The morphing wheel system was developed by Carnegie Mellon University National Robotics Engineering Center (CMU NREC).  

The transforming wheels are a long way from reaching production vehicles. DARPA is still in the midst of phase two of a broader Ground X-Vehicle Technologies (GXV-T) program.

In addition, DARA’s Multi-mode Extreme Travel Suspension (METS) system protects troops from a rough ride, smoothing it out so that soldiers aren’t fatigued by a difficult cross-country trip. METS can adjust the vehicle’s suspension to account for uneven terrain, bumpy terrain.

DARPA’s Ground X-Vehicle Technologies program, which is meant to reduce vehicle size and weight by 50 percent, crew size by 50 percent, double vehicle speed, allow access to 95 percent of all terrain types, and reduce the enemy’s ability to detect the vehicle at distance. None of the tech involved will make it into current generation military vehicles, and much of it probably needs work before it is tough enough to go to war, according to popularmechanics.com. But DARPA’s pioneering work shows the direction ground combat is headed and what our military vehicles might be equipped with 15 or 20 years from now.

The practical uses are not just limited to military uses, according to engadget.com. While this would be immediately helpful for armored vehicles that need to cover ground as quickly as possible, it would also be helpful for search and rescue, construction and any other situation where there’s a mix of flat roads and unforgiving landscapes.