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DARPA is testing massive autonomous robot tanks with glowing green eyes

Published Apr 29th, 2024 4:33PM EDT
DARPA robot tank
Image: DARPA

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Engineers at the Pentagon have cooked up quite a beast. A DARPA robot tank is a self-driving vehicle that has been engineered as part of DARPA’s RACER (Robotic Autonomy in Complex Environments with Resiliency) program, and it is quite formidable.

The 20-foot tank is able to bound across off-road terrain as if it were a sports car on asphalt, and it doesn’t require any human input to get it where it’s going. One of the most recent tests saw the RACER Heavy Platform (RHP) autonomous tank tearing through the rugged terrain of a military training ground out in Texas.

It’s an iconic time for the DARPA robot tank, as it probes that the tank is capable of traveling 30 miles along a route at a cruising speed of 25 miles per hour. That might not sound that exciting, but considering the terrain it was ripping through, it is actually really impressive.

Video of the tank roaring through various terrain, such as heavy vegetation, ditches, and even rocky outcroppings, showcases that the autonomous tank is moving in the right direction for what DARPA is trying to accomplish.

Of course, like any AI-powered vehicle, DARPA’s robot tank will undoubtedly inspire some raised concerns about how AI could exterminate humanity. Something that isn’t likely to be tempered any by the tank’s design, either, which features two glowing green eyes. They appear a bit quirky at times, but the agency told Gizmodo that they are simply status indicators for the vehicle.

The RACER tank weighs roughly 12 tons and is designed to support other members of DARPA’s RACER fleet. Those vehicles more resemble self-driving ATVs, though, than full-fledged tanks, so it will be interesting to see how DARPA plans to put this vehicle to use going forward.

It was always only a matter of time before more autonomous vehicles made their way into the world, and DARPA’s robot tank seems like a logical next step for the agency, which has been working on RACER vehicles since 2004 and which recently debuted its Manta Ray underwater drone. Of course, we’re still a long way from any of these vehicles actually being released into the world.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.