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Watch Nasa's self-driving MRV drift!

2015-04-14 12:24

FUTURE SELF-DRIVING CAR: Nasa tests its new battery-powered Modular Robotic Vehicle Image: Nasa

HOUSTON, Texas - Earlier in 2015, Wheels24 reported that Google is testing its new self-driving car, set to be launched later in 2015.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) has set its sights on a similar project with the debut of its autonomous Modular Robotic Vehicle (MRV) prototype.

The MRV, built at Nasa’s Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas, is the size of a golf cart and is packed with the space agency's latest technology including remote and autonomous control.


Nasa released a video highlighting some of its MRV's capabilities such as its "drifting-capability". The space agency says it's two-seat battery-powered car is designed to meet "the growing challenges and demands of urban transportation.” 

VIDEO: Nasa's MRV in action

The vehicle is powered by a liquid-cooled, electric motor and, according to Nasa, "includes a full drive-by-wire system, as well as redundant fail-operational architecture."

According to Nasa, the MRV can reach a top speed of 60km/h but is currently limited to only 24km/h. Its curb weight is 907kg and it measures in at 2m long and 1.5m wide.

Johnson Space Flight Centre's Justin Ridley said: “This work allowed us to develop some technologies we felt were needed for our future rovers. These include redundant 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.”

It's equipped with conventional driving controls (steering wheel, accelerator/brake pedal) though a multi-joystick is available for advanced drive modes. A configurable display allows for changing of drive modes, giving access to vehicle information such as battery range."


The MRV is driven by independent wheel modules called e-corners and each can be controlled independently and
rotated "180 degrees about its axis". This allows the MRV to outmanoeuvre most road cars.

Nasa explains: "In addition to conventional front-wheel steering, the rear wheels can also articulate allowing for a turning radius as tight as zero. The driving mode can be switched so that all four wheels point and move
in the same direction achieving an omni-directional, crablike motion."

This mean performing a manoeuvre such as parallel parking is as easy as driving next to an available spot and moving the vehicle sideways to slip between two cars.

Ridley comments: “It’s like driving on ice but having complete control. It’s a blast to ride in and even more fun to drive. We’ve talked about it being like an amusement park ride."

Click on the gif below to view the video:

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