DARPA is looking to revolutionize vehicle design, similar to how it helped change the computer circuit board manufacturing process. DARPA announced a program last year, Advanced Vehicle Make (AVM), as a suite of associated programs that are “trying to enhance the adaptability of our military forces by compressing the development timelines for complex defense systems by at least five times,” program manager Paul Eremenko said.
What is that in laymen’s terms? Simple: DARPA wants to change the way vehicles of the future are built and reinvent the way the vehicles of today are designed and manufactured. AVM includes a trio of programs, META, iFAB and FANG to help achieve this goal.
META will specialize in designing and testing the integration of parts using software alone, while iFAB will be charged with building the vehicles created with META in a factory specializing in quickly adapting to newly designed vehicles. Lastly, FANG will be for crowd-sourcing a prototype military ground vehicle, whose design and manufacture will put the entire system to the test.
AVM has a current goal of having a finished vehicle ready by late 2015 so that it can go “to the Marines and then they beat the hell out of it. They drive it out in the ocean at Camp Pendleton in San Diego.”
DARPA’s plan is fairly technical, but their first goal is to digitize design by creating computational models of vehicle components. ”The ultimate objective,” Eremenko says, “is that the vehicle that is built in iFAB is fully functional—avoiding the traditional design-build-test-redesign iteration that occurs with traditional prototyping.”
DARPA will also look to the public to help design their first vehicle which will be “a heavy and potentially amphibious infantry fighting vehicle,” according to their website. The contest will have three consecutive challenges one in 2012, one in 2013 and one in 2014. Winners of the first two challenges – designing a drivetrain suitable for building and separate testing, and designing an armored chassis – will win $1 million each. The winner of the final challenge, which is for the completed vehicle, could take home $2 million.