Ever wished real life was more like a video game? Ever gotten so mad at another driver during your daily commutes that the urge to use your car as a battering-ram was almost overpowering?
Well, the U.S. Army has developed the vehicle for you. It offers a serious arsenal of weapons that would make the Terminator green with envy while affording all the protection you’ll need from other road-raging, gun-wielding maniacs. Though this vehicle is probably not meant for use by civilians, the men and women of the U.S. Army have the keys to a real butt-kicking ride.
The SmarTruck concept vehicle debuted at the Society of Automotive Engineers’ SAE 2001 expo in Detroit and is on display this week at the 2001 Automotive Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City. The SmarTruck offers the driver a range of highly advanced security and defense features to either permanently stop or stun anyone in its way. Electronic fingerprint identification quickly allows authorized persons admittance to the sleek blackF-350 pickup-based sport/utility vehicle. This truck is perfect for military personnel, high-profile people, hands-off rock stars, armored bank trucks and even those who think the world is out to get them.
The truck was designed by the Army’s National Automotive Center (NAC) in Warren to maneuver unstoppably through a variety of urban situations, whether on a high-speed chase through the city or holding back a riotous mob. Absolute visibility for the driver is one of the key security features. Cameras mounted on the exterior of the truck offer 360-degree surveillance to eliminate surprises.
SmarTruck has bulletproof glass, Kevlar armor and electric shock door handles to prevent unwanted access and to protect passengers. If the driver is being pursued, he can activate the rear release of tacks, oil slick or smoke screen, with the touch of an electronic keypad. A separate set of super bright front and rear lights can be turned on to temporarily blind any opponent. To disable rioters, pepper spray can be fired 6-ft (1.83 m) around the entire vicinity of the truck.
And for the urban assault enthusiast, the SmarTruck also is equipped with retractable grenade launcher, high-power laser and night vision. The laser is part of a remotely operated turret that was designed to clear mine fields, tanks or bombs in its path.
For the soldier without a compass or a free hand, the truck provides GPS-based navigation, telematics and voice-activated windows and cell phones.
This new-style Army vehicle is part of the 21st Century Truck program to design more fuel-efficient trucks for the future. The Army wanted a vehicle for testing cutting-edge technologies while providing urban soldiers with transportation that is tougher and safer. “There may still be conventional battlefield situations, but in the future we have to deal more frequently with terrorist activities, not just overseas, but here at home, too,” says NAC spokesman Neil T. Jackson.
The SmarTruck’s security devices are not meant to kill, Mr. Jackson says, only disable attackers so that occupants and cargo can escape dangerous situations. However, it’s obvious this vehicle could do serious damage if the situation warranted. Mr. Jackson says the vehicle is ideal for business people: “There are thousands of business people abducted every year that could use this,” including government officials or embassy staffs.
And where did the designers get their ideas for building such a tough, intelligent vehicle? At the NAC, developers watched four James Bond movies — famous for super-cool gadgets and gizmos — for design insight. The NAC also partnered withMotor Co., Integrated Concepts & Research Corp. and MSX International to create the SmarTruck.
Mr. Jackson doubts the vehicle will end up in production, but says that variations of it may be picked up by Ford or oCorp. “The Army’s aim is to develop technologies that in many cases can be used in civilian vehicles, as well. So-called “dual use” technologies can save money for our defense forces and for commercial truck producers,” he says. All-wheel steering, a feature of the SmarTruck, is expected to be in some 2002 GM trucks. The supplier of the technology, Automotive Systems, calls it QuadraSteer. And Night vision already is available in some vehicles, while fingerprint identification for entering and starting vehicles is not far off.