It seems like everyone is obsessing over self-driving cars these days. Not to be left out of the excitement, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has awarded contracts to eight institutions to build the future of autonomous military vehicles.
Among the partners tapped for the project are Carnegie Mellon University, Raytheon, Honeywell International and SRI International.
DARPA wants cars that are built to optimize mobility rather than durability. Instead of spending money on heavily armoring vehicles to protect the human cargo inside, researchers will focus on developing cars that dodge enemy fire. That means vehicles can be super lightweight and portable. The agency says it wants vehicles that can drive on really harsh, difficult-to-navigate terrain and are super responsive to environmental factors — like flying rockets.
Features on DARPA's wish list include: flexible armor that moves to a potential point of impact before a car is hit; capabilities around avoiding enemy fire; and digital invisibility or "reduction of visible signals" like infrared.
"We're exploring a variety of potentially groundbreaking technologies, all of which are designed to improve vehicle mobility, vehicle survivability and crew safety and performance without piling on armor," said DARPA program manager Maj. Christopher Orlowski in a statement.
If the project proves successful, war zones could start looking a lot more like scenes from Star Wars.