Nissan Motor Corp. and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have inked a five-year agreement to develop technologies need to enable autonomous driving. The first vehicle that will feature hardware and software jointly developed by Nissan and NASA will undergo tests by the end of 2015.
According to the agreement, Nissan will provide a fleet of Nissan Leafs, while work on the matter will be made in Nissan’s Silicon Valley Research Center and in NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif. The Leaf was chosen as it has a built-in electronic hardware that allows building an autonomous vehicle easier.
The partnership between Nissan and NASA covers four areas: autonomous drive systems that involves any mechanical part that enables a vehicle to accelerate, brake and steer; human-machine interface solutions; network-enabled applications that enables a vehicle to know where it is and safely drive in areas with other vehicles; and software analysis and verification.
NASA has become more interested in autonomous vehicles as it is seeking to develop technology and build vehicles that could drive themselves on Mars if it cannot be controlled from Earth. In a statement, Nissan chief executive Carlos Ghosn remarked that the work of the partners is connected by similar challenges.
He added that the partnership will accelerate Nissan's development of “safe, secure and reliable autonomous drive technology” that will be progressively introduced to consumers starting next year to 2020.
He noted that Nissan’s goal is to launch a self-driving vehicle that can navigate safely in nearly all driving situations, including city driving. S. Pete Worden, director of Ames Research Center, remarked that knowledge developed during this partnership will be applied toward future space and aeronautics endeavors. [source: Nissan]