NASA’s new Modular Robotic Vehicle prototype is a new type of rover developed in conjunction with the car industry—and it looks like a hell of a lot of fun to drive, on this planet or any other.
The key to the vehicle’s abilities is a set of four liquid-cooled wheel motors which can also be turned independently. That allows it to accelerate and steer in ways that conventional cars can only dream of—spinning on the spot, effortlessly drifting, or slipping into parking pays side-on. Not that the latter would be much use on Mars.
Those independent wheels aren’t the only tech on show in the rover, though. The fully electric vehicle is fully fly-by-wire and can be controlled remotely, too. But really its the high level of control that the four-wheel system affords that’s of interest, allowing the driver to navigate whatever world they’re on in new ways and respond to obstacles without just stamping on the brakes.
Quite what will become of the Modular Robotic Vehicle remains to be seen. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that some of its technologies could be included on a future rover, allowing astronauts to control the vehicle from orbit above a planet. Or, with any luck, its features may appear in a commercial product. Well, we can hope. [NASA via The Verge]