Nissan and NASA make for strange bedfellows, especially when the bed isn’t exactly something that will roll out in outer space. And yet the car maker and the space agency have struck up a deal that will see the two working together on autonomous drive vehicles, the current holy grail in automotive technology. The exchange of technologies and ideas is aimed to help both organizations, but Nissan will be the first to show the fruits of that partnership before the year ends.
To some extent, the partnership does indeed make sense. Part of the idea of a self-driving car is being able to monitor, guide, and, if necessary, control said vehicle from a distance. And when it comes to such long distance remote control, there is perhaps no better expert than NASA, who has had years of experience in remotely controlling vehicles on another planet even.
The two will be field testing a fleet of zero-emission autonomous cars at NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffet Field, California. The self-driving cars will be tested for various functions, including the transfer of goods and people. Eventually, the goal is to make these cars sophisticated enough that they will be able to drive through the most complex and most dangerous driving situation: city traffic.
And what will NASA be able to take away from all these? The space agency aims to benefit from Nissan’s own expertise in making components for autonomous vehicles to help bolster its own space programs. It will also be leveraging Nissan’s R&D for prototype systems as well as robotics.
The car maker plans to have autonomous cars ready for public consumption by 2020 and the first car to come from the Nissan-NASA test fleet is expected to arrive by the end of 2015.