Toyota’s transformation into a mobility company is challenging team members across the organization to think outside the box — if not out of this world.
So last week’s announcement that the company had reached an agreement with the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency to develop and build a rover that future astronauts could use to explore the moon makes a lot of sense.
This six-wheeled vehicle will be about the size of two minibuses. Its pressurized cabin will provide enough room for two passengers to remove their space suits. It will be powered by a combination of solar panels and Toyota’s fuel cell technology, which will also generate drinking water to help keep the crew hydrated. And, by swapping out its oxygen and hydrogen tanks like cartridges every 1,000 miles, astronauts could cruise up to 6,000 miles between refueling stops.
Advanced autonomous driving technology will also be part of the package, allowing the rover to land on the moon ahead of the astronauts, then pilot itself to wherever the humans touch down.
At this point, the rover is little more than a concept on paper. Development of a full-scale prototype is set to begin in 2022 in hopes of having the real thing ready for full-scale extraterrestrial action in 2029.
So, unlike the latest iteration of the RAV4 or Highlander, this particular SUV — as in space utility vehicle — won’t
be coming to a Toyota dealership near you any time soon. But perhaps some of the lessons learned will find their way into the company’s earth-bound vehicles.
The sky’s the limit. And then some.
Want to take a deeper dive on this extra terrestrial topic? Check this out...
By Dan Miller