US space agency NASA and the North American arm of Nissan have announced that they are to join forces on the development autonomous vehicle technology.
The five-year R&D project – which brings together researchers from both NASA’s Ames Research Centre in California and Nissan’s Silicon Valley research facility – will work on a host of autonomous vehicle technologies that are potentially applicable to both road use and planetary exploration.
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. The first vehicle of that fleet should be testing at the facility by the end of 2015.
Commenting on the unusual partnership, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn said: ‘The work of NASA and Nissan – with one directed to space and the other directed to earth, is connected by similar challenges.’
Ghosn added that he hopes the partnership will accelerate Nissan’s development of driverless car technology.
NASA is also expected to benefit from the partnership by gaining access to Nissan’s existing expertise in autonomous vehicles.
‘We look forward to applying knowledge developed during this partnership toward future space and aeronautics endeavours.” said director of Ames Research Center, Dr Simon “Pete” Worden.