Now that everyone's getting on the autonomous car bandwagon, each manufacturer needs its own angle. Audi takes its cars to the track, Mercedes makes its cars look like an egg, and Google's cars just have a weird face. Nissan, however, has gone with the betterment-of-humanity route, and just teamed up with NASA.
Yeah, the rocket people. The moon people. The International Space Station And All Around Inspirational people. That NASA.
Nissan and NASA (henceforth to be known in this post as NissaNASA) have signed a five-year research and development deal, and with that they're probably planning to take over both planet Earth and outer space with a fleet of robotic marauding Leafs:
Researchers from Nissan's U.S. Silicon Valley Research Center and NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., will focus on autonomous drive systems, human-machine interface solutions, network-enabled applications, and software analysis and verification, all involving sophisticated hardware and software used in road and space applications.
Researchers from the two organizations will test a zero-emission autonomous vehicle fleet 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.
NissaNASA plans to introduce an autonomous vehicle to the public by 2020, though they're not saying if by "introduce" they mean display a concept at an auto show or put it on sale. I guess it really depends on how it all works out, really.
But I do look forward to the day when astronauts do effortless robotic powerslides on Mars in their Robo-Z.