A trip to the moon is the new autonomous driving target for General Motors, Hyundai, Kia and Goodyear.
General Motors has joined a new space race called Project Artemis that boldly aims to return humans to the moon by 2025.
GM is bringing tyre giant Goodyear along for the ride — to supply tyres for its lunar rover — and their potential competition includes South Korean conglomerate Hyundai and Kia.
There is another car connection through electric-car specialist Tesla, as Elon Musk’s Space-X company is developing the lunar lander that will take the Artemis vehicle to the moon’s surface.
The Hyundai-Kia group is taking another approach as it looks to use its robot technology for South Korean-led moon missions.
The GM program for a lunar rover will tap into the off-road abilities of its reborn Hummer brand, as well as the Ultium batteries that will power the next generation of its electric cars including the Cadillac flagship unveiled last week as the Celestiq concept.
First details of GM and Lockheed Martin’s lunar terrain vehicle were reported by Automotive News in the USA, which said it will be up against a number of rival contenders including a partnership between Nissan North America, Sierra Space, and Teledyne.
GM has history on the moon, as it was involved with aircraft manufacturer Boeing in the 1970s on the moon exploration vehicle for the Apollo missions.
“They were spot-on with their designs,” Brent Deep, GM’s chief engineer for the lunar mobility program, said in a media statement.
GM has been doing virtual testing using the same process it developed for the 2022 GMC Hummer EV pick-up over the past two years.
According to Mr Deep, the Hummer “has a has a lot of the characteristics of what a lunar rover will be, tamed down.”
Goodyear’s challenge is to build airless tyres that can function on the lander at temperature extremes between minus 155 degrees and plus 120 degrees, as well as coping with 14-day cycles of daylight and darkness, and gravity only one-sixth as strong as earth.
“Everything we learn from making tires for the moon’s extremely difficult operating environment will help us make better airless tires on earth,” Chris Helsel, the chief technology officer at Goodyear said in a media statement.
Hyundai and Kia are working with six South Korean research institutes on exploring the surface of the moon, a tie-up that follows Korea’s successful launch of a domestically produced rocket in June.
The collaboration could begin this month with Hyundai Motor and Kia contributing their work on smart-mobility technology.
“We will expand the scope of human movement experience beyond traditional means of transport and beyond the bounds of earth,” said Yong Wha Kim, the head of the R&D planning and co-ordination center of Hyundai Motor and Kia.