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Autonomous mobility pods of the future could feature exceptional tight-space maneuvering capabilities if Protean's 360-degree integrated wheel systems come into play. Each wheel features steering, suspension, motors and pneumatic ride-height adjustment.
The first time we heard of Protean was in 2013. The company began manufacturing it's powerful hub motors for the automotive industry. The hub motors were powerful but a whole lot heavier than standard ones. In addition they added weight below the suspension and were exposed to damage from dirt, dust, gravel, and rocks.
Autonomous mobility pods are an emerging market that do not care about weight or high speeds. The priority for mobility pod designers are space, efficiency and suitability for driverless solutions. Protean's latest build, called the Protean 360+, offers all three.
The Protean360+ corner module is a self-contained, all-in-one drivetrain, suspension and steering assembly for autonomous electrics. While Israel based REE manufactures some of the most flexible packages for performance vehicles and heavy-hauling trucks as it is for autonomous systems, Protean is targeting the mobility pod segment.
Each Protean360+ unit features a ProteanDrive hub motor, wheel and tire, and a miniature double-wishbone suspension system with a damper mounted in a steering arm. This set up can rotate the entire unit 360 degrees or pneumatically raise and lower the chassis above it.
Basically this means that the mobility pod can move sideways, in and out of tight parking spots, or turn super-fast donuts on the spot. When it stops, it can lower itself down to ground level, making it easy for oldies, youngsters and wheelchair users to hop in and out.
Each hub motor is listed as one of Protean's Pd18 units, meaning (107bhp) 80kW and 1,250Nm of torque per wheel. That makes a total of (430 hp) 320kW and 5,000 Nm of torque! While this is definitely over-the-top, production versions may feature scaled down versions of the hub motor.
While the Protean built system has what looks like some major electrical cables exposed to the elements, system's pneumatic lift and 360-degree rotation may prove to be killer features in the autonomous world that is just around the corner.
Thoughts About The Protean360+
We're blown away. We've heard a lot about mobility pods that can move in a 180 degree swing on either side, but to move 360 degrees is next level. Add to that 5,000Nm of torque! A Porsche 918 does the 0-100kmph in 1.9 seconds using 1,250Nm. We don't even want to do the math. Phew!
We're not too happy with the exposed wires and cables, Protean has enough of time to fine tune it's product, considering autonomous mobility is at least a decade away.