NASA’s Perseverance rover has made an autonomous ride for the first time using the new and improved AutoNav automatic navigation system. This technology allows Perseverance to control the wheels itself and drive around the planet without the help of scientists from Earth.
According to NASA, AutoNav is equipped with more powerful technology than its predecessor Curiosity. These features include the ability to 3D map the terrain ahead, identify hazards, and plan routes around obstacles. This means that Perseverance will be able to navigate straighter routes and move at much faster speeds.
The agency said Perseverance can reach a top speed of about 120 meters per hour. That’s about six times faster than Curiosity.
“We’ve sped up AutoNav by a factor of four or five,” said Michael McHenry, Head of Mobility and a member of the JPL Rover Planning Team. “We travel much more distance in less time than with Curiosity.”
AutoNav will be a key feature that will enable the six-wheeled robot to complete the science campaign at the bottom of Jezero Crater. It involves scanning and drilling Martian soil for signs of ancient microscopic life.
“Now we can drive through more difficult sections, rather than bypass them. We couldn’t do that before, ”said Jennifer Trosper, Mars 2020 Perseverance Project Manager.