It's rough, tough, unmanned and nearly unstoppable.
The Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA (which brought you a little thing called the Internet), has nearly finished work on the Crusher, a six-wheeled robot that rolls through ditches, walls, streams, other vehicles and almost anything else that gets in its way.
"This vehicle can go into places where, if you were following in a Humvee, you'd come out with spinal injuries," Stephen Welby, director of DARPA's Tactical Technology Office, told the military-oriented Stars and Stripes newspaper. "Usually vehicles are set up to protect humans. Here, we didn't have to worry about that."
The big brute weighs nearly 7 tons, has a top speed of about 25 mph and is designed to be totally autonomous — it doesn't need remote drivers back at base twirling a steering wheel, though it can be operated remotely if necessary.
Give it a command to get from one point to another and it'll use its GPS sensors and internal maps to plot out a route, deviating from the straight and narrow only when confronted by obstacles over six feet tall or deep.
"This could be used as a scout, or a quick-response support vehicle," Welby told Stars and Stripes. "With existing cameras we've put on there this vehicle is able to see rabbits at long-range, and enemy troops from 4 kilometers [2 and a half miles] away. Imagine sending this to an intersection and letting it sit there to monitor what's going on for days or weeks."
Surprisingly, the Crusher's engine is ripped from a diesel Volkswagen Jetta. Its testers "drive" it with controllers for racing video games. A hacked Apple iPhone gives remote updates of the Crusher's internal diagnostics. And a standard Xbox 360 controller raises the mast antenna, rotates the cameras and, given the situation, fires the weapons.
Soldiers "could finally put those 'Halo' skills to good use," joked Welby.