NASA unveiled its new Modular Robotic Vehicle prototype, which is actually a futuristic EV that can drive sideways and also capable of some remarkable drifts.
Developed by the space agency at the Johnson Space Center in partnership with the car industry, MRV is designed to build new technologies for vehicles both on Earth and in space. Technology used in the battery operated vehicle could help improve driving in cities and on Mars, NASA explained.
The advanced electric rover can operate autonomously, remotely or by a person in a driver's seat. It has a set of four liquid-cooled wheel modules which can also be turned individually, enabling it to drive laterally and drift around corners that conventional cars can only dream of. As it can turn 180 degrees, the MRV is very agile. A video released by NASA shows a human driver slipping into parking pays side-on.
The MRV also boasts of remote control capabilities, with inputs being converted into electrical signals and then transmitted through wires to its motors. The full drive-by-wire system means there is no mechanical connection between propulsion, steering and braking.
As a broken wire or faulty computer could cause loss of steering, the fully electric vehicle uses a fail-safe second motor and second computer that can take control in case the primary system fails to work. The vehicle could eventually help us explore new worlds.
NASA described the controlling of the vehicle was like driving on ice, but having complete control of it.
The battery powered car is about the size of a golf cart weighing around 900kg and measures 7 feet by 5 feet. It has a top-speed of 40 miles per hour and can drive 62 miles on a single battery charge. The vehicle can be driven using a steering wheel or a specially designed joystick.
Mason Markee, a mechanical engineer working on the project, said the MRV's tight controls made it suitable for driving in cities. The electric vehicle was developed to meet the increasing demands and challenges of urban transportation, he said. The dimension and the agility of the MRV provide it an advantage to manoeuvre and park in tight corners.
NASA said the core technology was based on its robotic systems and rovers and been developed both for use both in space and on Earth. In the future, MRV technology could be used on manned missions to the Mars, Moon and asteroids.
NASA unveiled Modular Robotic Vehicle (MRV) - Video