Nissan and NASA are joining forces. The automaker has inked a five-year research and development contract with NASA intended to advance the development of autonomous vehicles.
Per the terms of the agreement, Nissan’s U.S. Silicon Valley Research Center and NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, California, will work hand-and-hand to develop autonomous drive systems, human-machine interface solutions and create network-enabled applications. The two parties will also test zero-emission autonomous vehicles at the Ames facility. The test vehicles will be used as transport for materials, goods, payloads and people. The first of those test vehicles is expected to be in use by the end of the year.
Nissan will use the partnership as a springboard to its 2020 goal of having an autonomous vehicle available in retail showrooms. NASA will benefit in the area of vehicular transport applications, meaning future rovers could have Nissan technology under the hood.
“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.”
Ames will assist in reimbursed design, development, testing and assessment of Nissan’s autonomous vehicles, including limited use of Ames’ campus for testing. These tests will build toward a proof-of-concept remote operation of autonomous vehicles to transport materials, goods, payloads or humans, which NASA parallels to the way it remotely operates planetary rovers from a mission control center.
“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, 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.”