THe 2012 Chevrolet Volt. Photo by Don Bain

How TARDEC's military research advances automotive technology

At the Tank Automotive Research Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) in Warren, Mich., the current project may one day be part of the latest fuel saving features in a Chevrolet or Ford.

Many current features we take for granted in our high-tech cars were first developed for military or defense related purposes. For example, proximity sensors that help us park and detect unseen obstacles were first applied to anti-aircraft detection. The well-known military technology known as radar has been adapted to produce some of the features we now enjoy on autos.

According to an article by Jeff Green of the Bloomberg News, TARDEC’s current project involves converting the exhaust heat of tanks to electricity to power the onboard computer, something especially applicable to desert warfare.

Given the new CAFE standards, this is just the sort of new tech likely to show up on cars in the not too distant future. Just last June Torque News posted an article about the effort to find the right thermocouple configuration to efficiently convert the waste heat energy combustion cars produce to augment the electric power of the automobile.

Despite the governmental budget cutbacks, chances are it takes a gigantic corporation to out fund the government outlay in securing our homeland. That’s why the infrared scanners some cars now employ to detect wildlife or pedestrians at a sufficient distant to safely respond are the result of military research. Infrared scanning or vision can be useful in detecting an enemy in dark, obscured or simply vast expanses.

This correlation between automotive and military pure science has been around for a long time. A perfect example is the Jeep, first produced for the armed services in WWII and then adapted to extremely successful civilian purposes when the war was over.


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