NASA and Nissan to build autonomous vehicles together

Many common devices, especially medical ones, that we take for granted today were once thought highly innovative, even futuristic. The US space agency NASA has been responsible for quite a few of these, including some types of artificial limbs, infrared ear thermometers, the so-called space blanket and the use of LEDs in medical therapies. Quite naturally, NASA also has a history of innovating in the area of transportation: anti-icing systems for aircraft, the use of safety grooves in highway surfaces, and the development of super-strong radial tires, to name a few.

It is not out of character for the space agency, therefore, to team up with a car maker—Nissan in this case—to collaborate on developing “autonomous vehicles.” NASA uses them for exploring other worlds; Nissan wants to make them available to earthly drivers. Each can learn from the other as they tackle the “similar challenges” that face them.

Nissan-NASA-Leaf-autonomous-vehicle-driverless-car-Silicon-Valley-Mars-rover-EDIWeekly
The first tests on autonomous vehicles will use a modified Nissan Leaf.

NASA and the North American arm of Nissan announced that they would work together on a five-year R&D project that will bring together NASA researchers from the Ames Research Centre in California and Nissan researchers from its Silicon Valley facility. The vehicles they develop could be used for planetary exploration and terrestrial road use. The first zero-emission test vehicle, a modified Nissan Leaf, is expected to be testing by the end of this year.

As reported in Wired magazine, the director of Nissan’s Silicon Valley research facility spent ten years as a “senior scientist” at NASA. The two research facilities are very close to each other, and, Nissan says, “the timing is right” because they are ready to start testing their autonomous vehicles on city streets. Nissan has said it will have driverless cars on the market by 2020. The automaker can learn a lot from NASA’s space rover vehicles, which operate remotely, but not very autonomously, in harsh conditions millions of miles from Earth. But it can also teach NASA what it has learned about navigating in terrain that is filled with variables and unpredictability, a city street. One environment is remote and hostile, but relatively predictable; the other is chaotic and dangerous.

The director of NASA’s Ames Research Centre told Wired that they needed to add to the autonomy of vehicles like the Mars rovers

Did you miss this?

Other Popular Stories

  • $1 billion injection from Quebec government will keep Bombardier aloft
  • Hypersonic Jet Engine That Can Go 16 Times the Speed of Sound
  • BC sees 100,000 LNG jobs, $1 trillion in revenues
  • First drone crash with a commercial aircraft in Canada triggers safety review and possible new rules
  • Norwegian group claims world's first seabed energy storage technology
  • Magna to acquire British auto body firm Stadco
  • Small business tax rate cut to 3.5 percent will only partially mitigate impact of minimum wage increases, both set for January 1 in Ontario
  • SAFFir is an autonomous robot firefighter being tested by the Navy for dangerous situations. Unlike other firefighting robots, SAFFir is both autonomous, and stands on two legs, with two hands to grasp fire hoses.
    Robots save lives: robot fire-fighters take on explosive situations. SAFFiR shows how they can be ultimately be autonomous.
  • Anticipation building for first test flight of Bombardier CSeries
  • Driverless transport systems "TecLines" will allow Mercedes factory to customize assembly
  • Clean energy expected to surge as pv costs drop
  • Bombardier to build more commuter trains for London transit
  • Researchers claim breakthrough in artificial photosynthesis
  • Windsor's good fortune with Chrysler hiring tempered by TPP concerns
  • Magellan gets $110 million contract for Canadian satellite program
  • Inter Pipeline will spend $2.6 billion to transport bitumen to oil sands projects
  • Beam me up, Scotty. Teleportation is small step closer: researchers transport photon 500 kilometers: Micius satellite
  • Quebec aerospace industry in good shape despite setbacks
  • Canada's energy sector "at a crossroads," risks falling behind
  • Pratt & Whitney Canada engines to power new Gulfstream jets
Scroll to Top