• Image Credit: Nissan
  • Image Credit: Nissan
  • Image Credit: Nissan
  • Image Credit: Nissan
  • Image Credit: Nissan
  • Image Credit: Nissan
Nissan and NASA have announced a collaboration on autonomous vehicles that, if we're honest, makes more sense to us than Infiniti partnering with Red Bull. The two are commencing a five-year R&D program to explore autonomous drive systems, human-machine interfaces, network-enabled applications, and software analysis and verification. What's more: the test fleet will be zero emissions and rolling around NASA's Ames Research Center by the end of this year. We will assume that means autonomous Leafs, but Nissan could be working on a new vehicle for the purpose.

Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn said the company will begin offering autonomous features "beginning in 2016," and wants to have commercially available self-piloting vehicles that can "navigate in nearly all situations," including urban environments, by 2020. Who better to assist than the people who put a self-driving rover on a planet that never gets closer than 34 million miles away?

What does NASA get out of it? Access to Nissan's materials and component developments, prototyping systems, and robotic software test beds. Sounds like everybody wins. The press release below has more information.
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Nissan and NASA partner to jointly develop and deploy autonomous drive vehicles by end of year

SUNNYVALE, Calif. Jan. 8, 2015 - Nissan Motor Co., through its North American-based organization, and NASA today announced the formation of a five-year research and development partnership to advance autonomous vehicle systems and prepare for commercial application of the technology.

Researchers from Nissan's U.S. Silicon Valley Research Center and NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., will focus on autonomous drive systems, human-machine interface solutions, network-enabled applications, and software analysis and verification, all involving sophisticated hardware and software used in road and space applications.

Researchers from the two organizations will test a fleet of zero-emission autonomous vehicles at Ames to demonstrate proof-of-concept remote operation of autonomous vehicles for the transport of materials, goods, payloads and people. For NASA, these tests parallel the way it operates planetary rovers from a mission control center. The first vehicle of that fleet should be testing at the facility by the end of 2015.

"The work of NASA and Nissan – with one directed to space and the other directed to earth, is connected by similar challenges," said Carlos Ghosn, president and CEO of Nissan Motor Co. "The partnership will accelerate Nissan's development of safe, secure and reliable autonomous drive technology that we will progressively introduce to consumers beginning in 2016 up to 2020."

Nissan has set 2020 as the timeframe for the introduction of autonomous drive vehicles that have the ability to navigate in nearly all situations, including the most complex situation, city driving.

According to the terms of the partnership, NASA will benefit from Nissan's shared expertise in innovative component technologies for autonomous vehicles, shared research to inform development of vehicular transport applications, and access to appropriate prototype systems and provision of test beds for robotic software.

"All of our potential topics of research collaboration with Nissan are areas in which Ames has strongly contributed to major NASA programs," said director of Ames Research Center, S. Pete Worden. "Ames developed Mars rover planning software, robots onboard the International Space Station and Next Generation air traffic management systems to name a few. We look forward to applying knowledge developed during this partnership toward future space and aeronautics endeavors."

"This partnership brings together the best and brightest of NASA and Nissan and validates our investments in Silicon Valley," said Ghosn.

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