NASA is embarking on an ambitious five-year program with Nissan to develop a fleet of zero emissions autonomous cars. NASA already is involved with many self driving vehicles at is Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, California.
According to the joint press release announcing the collaboration, “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.”
Ghosn says his company will begin offering autonomous features “beginning in 2016.” He wants Nissan to be offering self-piloting vehicles that can “navigate in nearly all situations,” including urban environments, by 2020. “This partnership brings together the best and brightest of NASA and Nissan and validates our investments in Silicon Valley,” said Ghosn.
It is likely that the Nissan’s electric car, the LEAF, will be first vehicle involved in the research, but the lessons Nissan learns in the project will apply to future products as well.