DARPA’s New Cars Are Mechanical Mountain Goats

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These vehicles can handle rough or extremely uneven terrain.

The U.S. government’s defense research agency is trying to figure out whether four motors are better than one.

In a new video, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency showed off a series of new vehicle designs, including a vehicle that looks a lot like a dune buggy and uses one motor for each of its wheels.

By giving each of the buggy’s wheels its own motor, the wheels don’t have to rely on axles that connect a standard’s cars wheels to the motor. This is great for the military, because an axle turns into shrapnel if the vehicle runs over an explosive device in the road. But it also means that the vehicle can drive over rough or extremely uneven terrain, because each wheel is independently attached to the chassis of the body.

Another one of DARPA’s designs could lead to better armored vehicles; By attaching cameras and sensors to the outside of a vehicle, a driver steers the vehicle using three screens mounted on the inside of the car. Software is also used to overlay the path of the car, depending on the orientation of the steering wheel, so the driver exactly knows a bulky vehicle’s trajectory. This kind of digital overlay could be useful even for cars with windows, military or civilian, adding a level of foresight for driving in low-visibility settings like nighttime or fog.

These designs are undoubtedly cool, but it’s not a sure thing that they’ll ever see the light of day.