Army Seeks Traditional and 'Crazy' Ideas for Safer Vehicles

By Eric Beidel
MONTEREY, Calif. — The Army has turned to the race car and commercial automobile industries in an effort to make tactical wheeled vehicles safer for soldiers.
The Army needs to start designing platforms around the soldiers inside, said Grace Bochenek, director of the Army Tank Automotive Research Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC).
“We want to design a vehicle from the inside out and not from the outside in, which has been traditionally what we’ve done,” she told attendees Feb. 6 at the National Defense Industrial Association’s annual tactical wheeled vehicle conference. “And we want to do that by thinking about the basics, from the soldier to the kind of seat.”
TARDEC is leading the “occupant-centric protection” effort.
“We’ve had 10 years of learning about protection. We’ve had 10 years of understanding about vehicle design,” Bochenek said. “We don’t want to lose all of that. We want to make sure we develop the right models and analysis based on all of that real data.”
The Army is specifically looking at how race car seats are designed. The Army deals with blasts coming up from underneath occupants, while race cars have a different kind of “crash mechanism” in which the impact comes laterally. Still, “there are a lot of similarities and tools that we can share,” Bochenek said.
The Army will look at both traditional and non-traditional technologies that can help protect occupants and vehicles against mine blasts, improvised explosive devices, vehicle rollovers, and crashes from any angle. Eventually TARDEC may try different items and concepts out on a hull demonstrator.
Officials are looking at everything from air bags and restraints to sensors and other electronics that can determine what type of event is occurring and activate the appropriate response. The service could find useful a variety of concepts that deal with floor designs or suspensions that would allow wheels to move and transverse as they go over mine blasts, Bochenek said. But they won’t ignore the more ubiquitous approaches that are found in cars in driveways across the country.
“Why in your car do you have all kinds of certain plastics and niceties that we all kind of think are just for aesthetics?” Bochenek said. “They’re not for aesthetics. They’re for safety reasons.”
Concepts from the auto industry could be translated to military trucks such as the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, she said.
“As we learn lessons, industry then can rapidly insert them into those acquisition programs,” Bochenek said. “We are looking for the crazy, out-of-the-box ideas.”

Topics: Business Trends, Doing Business with the Government, Science and Engineering Technology, Land Forces

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