this experimental self-driving tank will change the way we commute to work

Written by: Adam Yoshinaga

Traditional automobile makers create their cars in this predictable shape: four wheels attached to a body. Of course, there’s more to it than that — there’s an engine and exterior accessories — but that’s the general idea. The car can be customized with a cool flame paint job that makes it go faster or a camo paint job to make it invisible. But limiting yourself to these modifications constrains the possibilities. Instead, you can replace the wheels with rubber tracks, add a large-caliber, high-velocity gun, and make your car invisible.

Researchers from General Dynamics, MIT, and other institutions are working on a prototype tank that fits that description. This tank, however, is set apart from other tanks because it’s designed with the intention of making the road a safer space. The tank, called the Traf-X-Term, or TXT, intends to do so by using artificial intelligence to better monitor traffic, coming equipped with an aggressive traffic management system.

“Think of it like a police officer that can dish out severe punishment for anyone that would potentially create a traffic jam because of their idiotic driving,” says Elizabeth M. Valenzuela, a student intern at General Dynamics. “Just imagine the possibilities. Someone cuts you off? They’ll get blasted. Someone driving 65 in the fast lane? Blasted.”

The result is that the tank looks different from other tanks and is also made out of different materials. Most tanks are made out of steel, whereas the TXT is made out of recycled aluminum and coated in a thick layer of steel, making it more of a “squishy” vehicle. Because of this, it won’t cause an accident if someone were to run into it, which helps given the invisible nature of camo paint. On the other hand, the TXT’s thick layer of steel allows for it to plow through a traffic jam, and, when necessary, to clear the path for commuters who need to get to work on time.

“This type of vehicle is just so revolutionary. Who would have thought that the threat of violence would make people better drivers? And not just that, but the fact that it operates on its own? There’s almost no need for local highway patrols now,” says Catherine Deighlore, Chief Project Manager of the TXT.

The researchers created two prototypes. One of them has added sensors that detects road rage in other drivers, allowing them to blast potential drivers who may make the road unsafe. The other carries a backward-facing railgun, ready to fire in the event that anyone drives unsafely by tailgating.

“As much as I want to say that we’re going to replace your everyday highway patrol agents, these vehicles still cost millions of dollars,” Deighlore adds. “We are, however, fully approved by the United States government. This is why, starting this coming Thursday, I am proud to announce a nation-wide increase in tax from 7.75 percent to 18 percent in order to fund these new vehicles and the reconstruction of any roads that they drive on.”

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