Auto Tech

DARPA's reconfigurable wheels switch from tires to tracks in 2 seconds

If it wasn't coming from DARPA, we'd be inclined to believe it's magic.

darpa-rwt-promo
YouTube screencap

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is responsible for ensuring the US is ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to next-gen tech. Now, it's coming for your car's wheels... sort of.

DARPA researchers have come up with the Reconfigurable Wheel Track (RWT), a technology that's capable of shifting a wheel's shape while a vehicle is in motion. It can transform from a wheel to a track in approximately 2 seconds, giving vehicles a dash of added mobility in mixed environments.

(The RWT content starts at 2:21 if the video embedded above didn't start there.)

GIF by Morgan Little/CNET

Wheels are best used on flat terrain, but tracks provide the traction needed to conquer just about everything else. Normally, you'd have to equip either one or the other, but DARPA's RWT technology lets the military swap between the two at a moment's notice.

Fixing tracks to traditional vehicles is currently in vogue. Nissan has a wide variety of concepts dedicated to this practice, with vehicles intended for both snow and dirt. The GMC Sierra All Mountain concept accomplishes the same thing, albeit with a beefier body up top. Perhaps these automakers should be knocking on DARPA's door for their next set of concept cars.