Image: DARPA

DARPA, the US Defense Advance Research Projects Agency, has demonstrated some of its upcoming technologies to be applied in combat vehicles. The GXV-T (Ground X-Vehicle Technologies) program has been looking at ways to make vehicles lighter, faster and more agile over a variety of terrain – and also at the use of augmented reality. Reducing detectable signatures, such as visible infrared, acoustic or electromagnetic emissions, has also been important.

“We’re looking at how to enhance survivability by buttoning up the cockpit and augmenting the crew through driver-assistance aids,” said Major Amber Walker, GXV-T program manager in the DARPA Tactical Technology Office. Crew augmentation aims to improve situational awareness, adding semi-autonomous driver assistance plus automation of key crew functions.

A windowless cockpit concept by Honeywell International has been demonstrated, replacing vulnerable windows with real-time, high-resolution 360-degree views outside, communicated via wraparound ‘active window display’ screens, 3D near-to-eye goggles and optical head-trackers. Drivers using this system are said to have completed an off-road course in “roughly the same time” as in conventional all-terrain vehicles.

Raytheon BBN Technologies’ V-PANE (Virtual Perspectives Augmenting Natural Experience), meanwhile, fuses data from video and LiDAR cameras to create a real-time 3D model of the vehicle and its surroundings, allowing drivers and [remote] commanders to switch between multiple virtual perspectives to manoeuvre and detect targets of interest.

A further technology demonstrated, ORCA (Off-Road Crew Augmentation), predicts in real-time the safest and fastest route for autonomous off-road driving, even taking obstacles into account. In testing, drivers using ORCA are said to have travelled faster between waypoints and proceeded almost without pauses.

“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 technologies of the future,” said Major Walker.

-Farah Alkhalisi