New Wheels Shapeshift from Round to Triangular to Adjust to Rough Terrain


A large military humvee and its off-road wheels. / Photo by: Military_Material via Pixabay


The quality and state of tire wheels affect the performance of a vehicle, and it is important in vehicles used in transportation and warfare. For warfare, scientists at DARPA and researchers at Carnegie Mellon University developed new triangular wheels that adapt to its terrain.

The rim of the new wheels has a measurement of 20 inches that shifts its shape to overcome challenges in the environment. A team of specialists from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency at Pentagon and Robotics Engineering Center at CMU built the wheel to improve mobility, effectiveness, safety, and survivability of upcoming combat vehicles, without having to stack up more armor.

“We’re looking at how to enhance survivability by buttoning up the cockpit and augmenting the crew through driver-assistance aids. For mobility, we’ve taken a radically different approach by avoiding armor and developing options to move quickly and be agile over all terrain,” said Major Amber Walker, the program manager for GXV-T from the Tactical Technology Office at DARPA.

The Ground X-Vehicle Technologies program boosted the efficiency of combat vehicles through the following technical innovations:

- Reconfigurable Wheel-Track:  The wheel-track features mechanisms that allow the wheel to transition from a round shape to a triangular one to meet the requirements of the terrain.

- Electric In-hub Motor: The motors have been installed inside the wheels to bring several potentials, such as optimal maneuverability and heightened acceleration.

- Multi-mode Extreme Travel Suspension: The METS system gives high-speed travel on rough terrain while sustaining the upright position of the vehicle.

Aside from improving the wheels, the research team also improved designs of the vehicles. GXV-T provided onboard technologies for a 360-degree situational awareness and high-resolution visuals from sensors.

“DARPA’s excited about the progress made to date on the GXV-T program and we look forward to working with the Services to transition these technologies into ground vehicle platforms of the future,” added Walker.