Here's Why Rivian's 'Tank Turn' Feature Is A Long Way Off

Technology / Comments

But it is still coming.

With the dawn of the electric truck, buyers want something special. Ford F-150 Lightnings can act as a power station, the GMC Hummer can do the crab walk, and the Rivian R1T has a feature called 'Tank Turn'. If you've never heard of this feature, watch the below video to see how it works, but to sum up, it's like a four-wheel-drive donut, where the four electric motors work opposite to each other to turn the car within a very small circle. Basically, the wheels on one side of the truck move forwards while the wheels on the other side spin backward. If it sounds complex, that's because it is, and Rivian is struggling to make this feature work perfectly time and time again.

2022 Rivian R1T Truck Front Angle View Rivian
2022 Rivian R1T Truck Rear View Driving Rivian

Speaking to MotorTrend, chief engineer Charles Sanderson revealed that the trouble with the system is getting it to work safely. In the above video, the conditions are ideal for the maneuver, but the challenge for Rivian's engineers is the number of variables to take into account in less than ideal conditions. Each wheel could have different grip levels, and while the truck can determine how much power to send to each wheel when the vehicle is on the move, reading grip levels when stationary is nearly impossible. Thus, if one wheel ends up suddenly finding traction, the truck could spin off in an unintended direction. But that's not the only issue.

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2022 Rivian R1T Truck Rear View Driving © 2018 Ben Moon
2022 Rivian R1T Truck Dashboard Rivian
2022 Rivian R1T Truck Front View Driving Rivian

The R1T does not have a square wheelbase, meaning that there is a greater distance between the front and rear axles than between the ends of each axle. This means rotating around the exact center of the vehicle is not something that can be perfectly replicated with ease. If the point of rotation is not the center of the vehicle, we could again have the issue of the truck spinning off in a random direction. Finally, we have the issue of gravity. If the truck manages to start spinning on itself but is on a slope, the vehicle will spiral down whatever slope it is on.

On top of all that, this will be a new experience for many drivers who could panic, so the truck's computers really have a myriad of variables to try control.

Rivian hasn't told us when we can expect the feature to be perfected, but it definitely is coming, and that's good news even if the so-called tank turn will only rarely be used.

2022 Rivian R1T Truck Front Angle View Rivian
2022 Rivian R1T Truck Rear Angle View © 2018 Ben Moon
Source Credits: MotorTrend

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2022 Rivian R1T Truck Dashboard
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2022 Rivian R1T Truck Front View Driving
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