NASA's Modular Robotic Vehicle autonomous car
Nasa has built a robotic car prototype to test autonomous driving. The car also has the ability to drive sideways, take tight corners at speed and rotate on the spot, which would be useful in a space roverNASA

Nasa has unveiled a new battery-operated robotic car prototype that is able to drive by itself, but can also move sideways and take tight corners at speed without losing control.

The Modular Robotic Vehicle (MRV) prototype is meant to showcase Nasa's work into autonomous driving and, although it looks more like a souped-up golf cart, it is meant to help test out technology for future space rovers.

"This work allowed us to develop some technologies we felt were needed for our future rovers," ISS flight controller Justin Ridley told Telematics.

"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."

The car has four wheels that are each controlled separately by its own electric motor, which enables each wheel to rotate a full 180 degrees and turn the car on the spot or make really sharp turns around corners at speed.

MRV is able to "drift" without causing any strain on the vehicle or burning through the tires, as the wheels can instantly turn in the exact direction that the driver wants it to go in, so the car can instantly go sideways, backwards, and then forwards.

The vehicle also features a dashboard screen that provides the driver with lots of data about the car, such as how well it is operating, its condition, how much battery power is left and what the vehicle's next actions will be.

Drivers can choose to drive the car themselves, or input specific commands and let the car take over and drive autonomously. The user can also chose to stand at a distance and control the vehicle using a remote control.

Nissan has been working on autonomous cars as well and in January the car manufacturer signed a five-year partnership to build an autonomous vehicle system and a vehicle that produces zero carbon emissions.

The first prototype car of the Nissan-Nasa partnership will be tested at some point in 2015 at Nasa's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California and Nissan will begin implementing autonomous driving software to its cars between 2016 and 2020.