NASA has developed Modular Robotic Vehicle in order to imrove self-driving technology

NASA's Johnson Space Center developed Modular Robotic Vehicle(MRV) in order to “advance technologies that have applications for future vehicles both in space and on Earth”. Brand-new vehicle can an drift, drive sideways to park and spin on the spot.

5/7/15 5:00 am chumakdenis 1

The NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) is known as the US government agency responsible for the aerospace research, aeronautics, space programs and a lot of other staff like that.

Before now I (and probably a lot of other people as well) thought that they have nothing to do with the experiments and researchments on Earth.

Luckily, I was wrong. Their latest project called “Modular Robotic Vehicle” (MRV) was developed at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in order to “advance technologies that have applications for future vehicles both in space and on Earth”. 

“This work allowed us to develop some technologies we felt were needed for our future rovers,” said Justin Ridley, Johnson Space Flight Center.

"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.”

Modular Robotic Vehicle

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MRV is a fully electric two-seater well-suited for busy urban environments.

MRV is driven by four independent wheel modules called e-corners. 

Each e-corner consists of a redundant steering actuator, a passive trailing arm suspension, an in-wheel propulsion motor, and a motor-driven friction braking system.

Each e-corner can be controlled independently and rotated ±180 degrees about its axis. 

This allows for a suite of driving modes allowing MRV to maneuver unlike any traditional vehicle on the road. 

In addition to conventional front two wheel steering, the back wheels can also articulate allowing for turning radiuses as tight as zero. 

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The driving mode can be switched so that all four wheels point and move in the same direction achieving an omni-directional, crab-like motion (check out the video below). 

 

 

The brand-new vehicle from NASA can park sideways, spin on the spot, be driven remotely at up to 70mph (112km/h) and do a lot of other cool things as well.

This makes a maneuver such as parallel parking as easy as driving next to an available spot, stopping, and then operating sideways to slip directly in between two cars.

Driving experience

“This two-seater vehicle was designed to meet the growing challenges and demands of urban transportation and  would be ideal for daily transportation in an urban environment with a designed top speed of 70 km/h (40mph) and range of 100 km (60 miles) of city driving on a single charge of the battery". 

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"The size and maneuverability of MRV gives it an advantage in navigating and parking in tight quarters” – said Mason Markee.

How it is driven?

The driver controls MRV with a conventional looking steering wheel and accelerator/brake pedal assembly. Both of these interfaces were specially designed to mimic the feel of the mechanical/hydraulic systems that people are used to feeling when driving their own cars.

3732.jpg“It's like driving on ice but having complete control. It's a blast to ride in and even more fun to drive” - said Justin Ridley.

Each device includes its own redundancy to protect for electrical failures within the systems. A multi-axis joystick is available to allow additional control in some of the more advanced drive modes. A configurable display allows for changing of drive modes and gives the user critical vehicle information and health and status indicators.

Each propulsion motor is located inside the wheel and capable of producing 190 ft-lbs of torque. An active thermal control loop maintains temperatures of these high powered motors. A separate thermal loop cools the avionics, including custom lithium-ion battery packs.

Interesting fact about MRV

Unlike a normal car, the MRV has no mechanical linkages to the propulsion, steering, or brake actuators, the driver of an MRV relies completely on control inputs being converted to electrical signals and then transmitted by wires to the vehicle's motors.

A turn of the steering wheel, for instance, is recorded by sensors and sent to computers at the rear of the vehicle. 

These computers interpret that signal and instruct motors at one or all four of the wheels to move at the appropriate rate, causing the vehicle to turn as commanded. 

Does such’ wire-driving’ dangerous?

Yes, it is. Not having a mechanical linkage between the driver and the steering wheel introduces new risks not seen on conventional automobiles. A failed computer, or cut wire, could cause a loss of steering and the driver to lose control. Because of this, a fully redundant, fail-operational architecture was developed for the MRV. Provided the steering motor fail, the computer system will respond immediately by sending signals to a second, redundant motor. Should that computer fail, a second computer is ready to take over vehicle control. This redundancy is paramount to safe operations of a by-wire system.

Has anything been done to make this vehicle less dangerous?

Of course, yes. NASA would be NASA if they wouldn’t come up with a bunch of ideas.

For instance, MRV’s redundant drive-by-wire architecture allows for advanced safety and dynamic control schemes. These can be implemented with a driver operating either within the vehicle or by remote interface. In the future this system can be expanded to allow for autonomous driving.

So,what is the impact of the MRV on EVs?

“While the vehicle as a whole is designed around operating in an urban environment, the core technologies are advancements used in many of our robotic systems and rovers,” explained Mason. “Actuators, motor controllers, sensors, batteries, BMS, component cooling, sealing, and software are all examples of technologies that are being developed and tested in MRV that will be used in next generation rover systems.”

“The technologies developed in MRV have direct application in future manned vehicles undertaking missions on the surface of Earth’s moon, on Mars, or even an asteroid. Additionally, MRV provides a platform to learn lessons that could drive the next generation of automobiles”.

Well, I have nothing to say except totally agree on that and wish NASA good luck.

That's amazing what they did to us. 

Let's hope that the MRV-project is only the beginning and NASA will have more scientific projects like that one.

*What do you think about the Modular Robotic Vehicle? Will this vehicle infuence a lot on the nextgen self-driving vehicles?

Will companies like Tesla and Google share NASA's experience in their self-driving vehicles? How much time will it take to adopt these technologies?

Leave your comments on that in the comment section below. 

  nasa’s johnson space center modular robotic vehicle all-electric vehicle self-driving car autonomous driving innovations nasa electric vehicle

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