Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/1/2015 (2482 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
When you're sending a vehicle 400 million kilometres away expecting it to roam another planet, extract soil samples and send back data, you need it to think for itself.
So Nissan is betting the organization that has taken autonomous-vehicle technology to an interplanetary scale can help it develop self-driving cars right here on Earth.
The carmaker, which has previously vowed to put self-driving cars on the road by 2020, has teamed up with the American National Aeronautics and Space Administration to co-develop autonomous-drive systems, human-machine interface solutions, network-enabled applications and software analysis and verification systems.
'The work of NASA and Nissan... is connected by similar challenges'
Researchers from both organizations will test a fleet of zero-emission autonomous vehicles at the Ames Research Center in California with the goal of demonstrating remote operation of autonomous vehicles to transport goods, payloads and people.
The parallels between research efforts that till now have been separate were too great to ignore, Nissan said.
"The work of NASA and Nissan -- with one directed to space and the other directed to Earth, is connected by similar challenges," Nissan president Carlos Ghosn said in a statement.
"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."
Nissan wants by 2020 to have cars on the road able to, by themselves, navigate in nearly all situations, including the most complex of all, city driving.
NASA will get access to Nissan's research in components for self-driving vehicles as well as prototypes and test beds for robotic software.
"All of our potential topics of research collaboration with Nissan are areas in which Ames has strongly contributed to major NASA programs," Pete Worden, director of the Ames Research Center, said in a statement.
"Ames developed Mars rover planning software, robots on board the International Space Station and next-generation air traffic management systems to name a few."
Nissan and Volvo have both already demonstrated self-driving cars able to tackle some of the simpler driving situations themselves. In Japan, Nissan has had autonomous Leaf cars navigating highways and even executing off-ramp and merging manoeuvres.
In Gothenberg, Sweden, Volvo has had self-driving cars performing similar functions autonomously, from lane-keeping to speed adaptation to merging functions by themselves.
For both carmakers, the projects involved government authorization for testing on public roadways.
The technology for the simplest of functions is on cars already, from adaptive cruise control to autonomous braking to automatic steering to maintain lane position. The challenge from here is developing software able to respond to unexpected situations -- as almost always happens in city driving -- and execute appropriate responses.
Copy Editor, Autos Reporter
Kelly Taylor is a Winnipeg Free Press copy editor and award-winning automotive journalist. He's been a member of the Automobile Journalists' Association of Canada since 2001.