To the Moon

Meet the Lunar Cruiser, Toyota's four-seater moon rover designed in partnership with JAXA

The newly named Lunar Cruiser is set to arrive on the moon's surface in 2030.

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Corporation

A partnership with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has delivered the Toyota Lunar Cruiser, a four-seat moon rover. Work on the project has lasted over a year, commencing in July 2019.

With a name inspired by Toyota's Land Cruiser SUV, the Lunar Cruiser is a six-wheel utility vehicle that is six meters long, five meters wide and about four meters high. It can accommodate two people for regular use and four in an emergency.

JAXA-Toyota Lunar Cruiser

JAXA-Toyota Lunar Cruiser

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Corporation

This isn't just a one-off project designed to generate publicity for JAXA and Toyota. The Lunar Cruiser's design and engineering process has a number of milestones set out to meet. Starting in 2022, the partnership will manufacture a 1:1 scale prototype of the rover then begin acquiring and verifying testing data on driving systems required to explore the moon's polar regions.

Two years later, it is expected that progress will be able to advance to allow for design, manufacturing, and evaluation of an engineering model of the rover and design of the actual flight model will begin. By 2027, the flight model will be manufactured and design and evaluation of the model will be underway.

It's projected to be ready for work in 2029. JAXA plans to use it as part of a manned exploration in 2030.

When manned, the rover will be pressurized and is designed to use fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) technologies to navigate the moon's surface.

Pressurised Rover Concept | Toyota and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agencywww.youtube.com

This isn't the only massive fuel cell technology undertaking Toyota is involved in. They recently revealed plans to create an alternatively fueled live-work-play testing facility at the base of Mt. Fuji.

While those projects are ongoing, Toyota is moving forward with passenger car and tractor trailer FCEV technology. They recently debuted a redesigned Mirai sedan and have begun installing hydrogen fueling stations along the western coast of California to be used by the overland trucking industry. The company continues efforts to lobby towns on the East Coast of the U.S. to adapt restrictive laws to be more receptive to FCEV vehicles.

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New minivan

Honda announces new Odyssey Sport

Sport is a new trim for the Odyssey minivan.

Honda

The Honda Odyssey may not be the most exciting vehicle in the world, but it's getting a new Sport model that at least makes it look the part. Honda will release the model for the 2023 model year, and the Odyssey line overall will be offered with a new Honda Service Pass, which includes two years of complimentary scheduled maintenance.

The Odyssey Sport slots into the Honda catalog between the EX-L and Touring trims. It comes with gloss-black exterior trim and black 19-inch wheels outside, and black leather with red stitching inside. The cabin comes with red accent lighting on the dash and in the footwells, and the roof pillars and headliner are both black. Under the hood, the Odyssey Sport gets the same 3.5-liter V6 from years past. It makes 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque, and comes paired with a ten=speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive.

2023 Honda Odyssey SportThe Sport comes with dark exterior trim and unique leather upholstery with red stitching inside. Honda

All Odyssey models come with Honda Sensing safety equipment, which includes adaptive cruise control and pedestrian detection. The 2023 van hasn't been crash-tested yet, but the 2022 model earned a Top Safety Pick + award, so it's likely the new model will be rated similarly.

Honda Service Pass is a new program for 2023+ Honda vehicles. It covers routine scheduled maintenance for up to two years or 24,000 miles, whichever comes first. Under the program, buyers get free oil changes, tire rotations, and multi-point inspections.

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The IIHS may increase the speeds it uses to test advanced driver aids.

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recently announced that it is considering changing the speeds it uses to test vehicle-to-vehicle front crash prevention systems. The agency currently tests the systems at 12 and 25 mph, but says that the speeds don't accurately represent the types of crashes the safety tech is meant to prevent.

Front crash preventionwww.youtube.com

Automatic emergency braking (AEB) is designed to notify of a possible collision and help respond with automatic application of braking. Just like a human using the brake pedal, it can stop the car, but higher speeds make it difficult to stop in time. The new tests would be conducted at 35 to 45 mph, which is the range where a large number of rear-end crashes occur. As Automotive News noted, an IIHS study showed 43 percent of rear-end crashes occur at speeds of 45 mph or less, so it's important to have a test that shows how well the tech performs at those levels.

A whopping 85 percent of 2022 vehicles earned a "Superior" rating in the current testing regime, so the IIHS will remove it from 2023 testing and Top Safety Pick award evaluations. Their view is that, since the majority of vehicles meet the criteria, it's no longer an accurate way of evaluating performance. In its place, the agency introduced a night test for automatic emergency braking systems that will begin next year.

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