The rover—set to launch in 2017—won't set any speed records, but it could be the automaker's toughest engineering challenge yet
Audi has entered a space race and all it has to do to win is drive a third of a mile on the moon. If that sounds easy, it’s not. The automaker has partnered with German engineering group Part-Time Scientists to try to win the Google Lunar XPRIZEcompetition. They unveiled the design of their unmanned rover, the Audi lunar quattro at the 2015 Cannes Innovation Days.
The Part-Time Scientists, a core team of 10 to 35 people have been working on the project since 2009. They have constructed two prototypes so far.
Joining with Audi gave the team access to Audi’s Munich-based advanced design studio which works on a diverse range of both automotive and consumer product projects. Audi designer Jorge Diez says the project was far from a styling exercise:
Because of conditions on the moon, we must intensively rethink every design detail, even the smallest of details. It is not simply elegance that counts here, but primarily the effectiveness of the rover. The design must serve the purpose of driving on the moon, but it must also express the familiar aesthetics that are expected of an Audi
Many of the technical features of the lunar quattro were well tested by the Part-Time Scientists. The vehicle generates its own energy from solar panels. There is a small supplemental battery in the chassis to provide power after sunset.
Each wheel is driven independently by an electric motor in the hub. It will have remarkable maneuverability around moon rocks as each wheel can rotate over 360 degrees. With Audi’s engineering assistance, the system was dubbed e-quattro.
The rover will rely on an array of cameras to assist in navigation. Two cameras in the moving head will acquire 3D terrain maps while a third will capture high-definition images to send back to Earth.