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Toyota unveils self-driving minibus for the Moon

Toyota has unveiled a self-driving minibus to transport astronauts across the Moon.

The Japanese carmakers teamed up with the country's space agency Jaxa for the vehicle, which doesn't require passengers to wear a spacesuit.

The space truck has six wheels specially designed to ride on the rough surface of the natural satellite.

The astronauts will be able to see where they are going through a glass window.

The minibus is eco-friendly as its powered by hydrogen fuel cells and solar energy - like some of Toyota's land cars.

Hiroshi Yamakawa, the president of Jaxa, said: "Having Toyota join us in the challenge of international space exploration greatly strengthens our confidence.

"Manned rovers with pressurised cabins are an element that will play an important role in full-fledged exploration and use of the lunar surface."

The rover would be capable of a "total lunar surface cruising range" of more than 10,000 kilometres.

Koichi Wakata, the firm's Vice President, added: "Lunar gravity is one-sixth of that on Earth.

"Meanwhile, the moon has a complex terrain with craters, cliffs, and hills.

"Moreover, it is exposed to radiation and temperature conditions that are much harsher than those on Earth, as well as an ultra-high vacuum environment.

"For wide ranging human exploration of the moon, a pressurized rover that can travel more than 10,000 km in such environments is necessary."

Jaxa hopes to have the unmanned space vehicles roaming on the moon by 2029.

Toyota President, Akio Toyoda, said:

"The automotive industry has long done business with the concepts of 'hometown' and 'home country' largely in mind.

"However, from now on, in responding to such matters as environmental issues of global scale, the concept of 'home planet', from which all of us come, will become a very important concept.

"Going beyond the frameworks of countries or regions, I believe that our industry, which is constantly thinking about the role it should fulfil, shares the same aspirations of international space exploration.

"Furthermore, cars are used in all of Earth's regions, and, in some regions, cars play active roles as partners for making sure that people come back alive.

"And I think that coming back alive is exactly what is needed in this project.

"I am extremely happy that, for this project, expectations have been placed on the thus-far developed durability and driving performance of Toyota vehicles and on our fuel cell environmental technologies."

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