Nissan and NASA Pair Up to Develop, Deploy Self Driving Cars by End of 2015

Electric cars and space exploration have a lot in common — and we’re not just talking about the link between Tesla CEO Elon Musk and his ‘other’ big company SpaceX.

NASA and Nissan are working together to build self-driving cars.

NASA and Nissan are working together to build self-driving cars.

They’re both futuristic, both make use of the latest high-tech materials, and both are trying to make the world a better place to live.

Now the world’s most famous space organisation and the company behind the world’s best-selling electric car are working together to bring artificial intelligence and zero emissions motoring together in a super-advanced, self-driving car.

Announced this morning, a new partnership between Nissan’s Silicon Valley Research Centre and NASA’s Ames Research Centre at Moffat Field, California has been formed which Nissan says will yield self-driving, zero emission prototype cars within the year.

Nissan and NASA both have experience with self-driving cars.

Nissan and NASA both have experience with self-driving cars.

With any luck, technology from those prototypes will start appearing in Nissan’s production vehicles from 2016 onwards, it said.

The project is part of a five year collaboration between the Japanese automaker and NASA into autonomous drive systems, human-machine interface solutions, network-enable applications and software analysis and verification.

Initially, the project will focus on building a proof-of-concept remotely-controlled autonomous vehicle, enabling the transportation of materials, goods, payloads and people. On Terra Firma, Nissan and NASA hopes to have a demonstration vehicle testing by the end of this year. But beyond the bounds of Earth, the technology being jointly developed could one way help NASA build better planetary rovers for extraterrestrial operation.

Carlos Ghosn and S. Pete Worden talk about the partnership.

Carlos Ghosn and S. Pete Worden talk about the partnership.

It’s worth noting of course, that neither Nissan nor NASA are new to the concept of autonomous vehicles. Last year, Nissan successfully demonstrated its Self-Driving Nissan LEAF electric car prototypes in a variety of different scenarios, becoming the first automaker in Japan to apply for an autonomous vehicle driving license.

Similarly, NASA is no stranger to autonomous vehicle technology. In fact, its Ames Research Centre has already helped build and design many autonomous vehicles and robotic systems, some of which are now being used on-board the International Space Station and of course, Mars.

“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. in an official statement this morning. “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.”

NASA is similarly pleased with the partnership.

“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.”

Of course, Nissan is by no means the first or only automaker to be investing in autonomous drive technology and autonomous drive technology partnerships. But we think you’ll agree that if it were still in high school, it would certainly have the brainiest, coolest lab partner.

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