When it comes to self-driving cars one normally thinks of Tesla or Google. Well, it looks like NASA has something to say in this field too. Engineers at the Johnson Space Center have presented their self-driving Modular Robotic Vehicle (MRV). Although its golf cart appearance may not show it, the MRV is futuristic creation.
The MRV is a battery-powered car which can operate itself. The vehicle can reach 40 miles per hour, the curb weighs 2.000 pounds and measures 7 feet by 5 feet. But the most spectacular feature of the car is the fact that all its four wheels represent independent modules. As a result they are able to rotate in and the MRV can be driven sideways.
According to NASA the project was developed in such a way to enable new technologies for cars both on Earth and in space. The systems used for the MRV can help improve driving both in cities and on Mars.
The wheel modules are liquid-cooled and each wheel can turn 180 degrees. The car is very agile since each wheel can turn independently allowing it to drift around corners and drift laterally around roundabouts. With such a vehicle parking into a tight space or on a crowded highway would be not only easy, but also fun.
The vehicle is controlled by a computer. The inputs are converted into electrical signals which are afterwards sent to the car’s motors through wires. So the MRV is based on a drive-by-wire system. This means that there is no mechanical connection between braking, propulsion and steering. So if a broken computer or wire triggers loss of steering, the MRV can use a fail-safe motor and a second computer which can take over if the first system does not work anymore.
The space company said that being on a MRV is like driving on ice but having the advantage of being in control. International Space Station flight controller, Justin Ridley, commented on NASA’s new project and said that they compared it with an amusement park ride. The developers did not intend to make driving fun, but it was something which came out of the design. When they saw the car into action many said that they did not expect the vehicle to be able to do all those things. Ridley also remarked:
“This work allowed us to develop some technologies we felt were needed for our future rovers. These include redundant by-wire systems, liquid cooling, motor technology, advanced vehicle control algorithms. We were able to learn a lot about these and other technologies by building this vehicle.”
Image Source: Slash Gear