Nissan and NASA have just concluded a 5-year partnership which should allow the two structures to develop autonomous driving systems. Nissan had already embarked on the realization of its own systems, but this partnership should allow it to move faster and take advantage of technologies hitherto reserved for the American space agency.
Experts and car manufacturers agree, however, that the first models of perfectly autonomous vehicles will not be available before 2020, meanwhile, research continues to offer the most reliable models possible.
If the partnership mentioned seems interesting for Nissan, it is also very much for NASA. The American space agency will take this opportunity to improve the autopilot programs for its rovers, its vehicles sent to distant planets.
So far, Spirit, Opportunity or Curiosity are not completely autonomous, and the movement instructions are sent to them by engineers on the ground. These are command lines which require very precise planning of journeys in order to avoid any obstacle. It therefore takes several days to schedule a trip of just a few meters.
NASA could save a lot of time and speed up its research if its mobile probes could simply be sent from point A to point B using a single command. The navigation and observation system would thus automatically avoid obstacles and the probe would itself choose the best path to take, as the landscape passes in front of it.