NASA and automaker Nissan have inked a five-year deal to work with each other on automated driving tech, Wired reports. That might not seem like a natural fit — Nissans don't traditionally go into space, after all — but there's the whole matter of rovers that need to be able to navigate semi-autonomously on other planets. Thanks to the delay in signal propagation, humans can't control interplanetary rovers in real time.
Test cars on the road by the end of this year
As a part of the deal, Nissan will be testing self-driving zero-emission vehicles — possibly Leafs — at NASA's Ames Research Center. First, though, it will be adding a map of Ames to its existing self-driving simulator, a system in use at Nissan's Sunnyvale research facility (close to Ames). Nissan hopes to have a car in testing on the road by the end of this year, and in dealerships by 2020 — a time frame that's been echoed by many in the auto industry over the last couple years.
It might seem like Nissan is getting more out of the deal than NASA; access to NASA's enormous catalog of research and the Ames campus is a big deal, after all. Still, the company notes that NASA will get "expertise in innovative component technologies for autonomous vehicles, shared research to inform development of vehicular transport applications, and access to appropriate prototype systems and provision of test beds for robotic software."