Nissan Partners with NASA for Autonomous Fleet Management Research

Nissan Partners with NASA for Autonomous Fleet Management Research

Author: Michael Cheng   

In 2015, Nissan and NASA announced a special partnership, which focused on the applications of autonomous cars in commercial sectors. The collaboration has helped the automotive brand develop unique vehicular safety features, including traffic-jam assist and parking-assist capabilities.

Earlier this month, the two businesses revealed the extension of the fruitful partnership. According to the updated agreement, the duo will work closely together to research fleet management methods for driverless cars. NASA's Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley will host the research activities. 

Outside of the partnership, NASA is collaborating with ride-hailing giant Uber to improve flying car technologies and routes.

Seamless Autonomous Mobility (SAM)

The agreement between Nissan and NASA will last for five years and will uncover applications for the Seamless Autonomous Mobility (SAM) platform. SAM is an integral part of the Nissan Intelligent Mobility initiative, which is made up of the following segments: self-driving tech, electric vehicles and vehicular infrastructure.

"We built SAM from technology NASA developed for managing interplanetary rovers as they move around unpredictable landscapes," said Maarten Sierhuis, director of the Nissan Research Center in Silicon Valley.

SAM features a handful of powerful features for autonomous fleets. The platform is designed to kick in when the system is having a difficult time assessing its surrounding environment. When such events arise, the vehicle alerts a remote operator. The human operator manually checks output data from the self-driving platform, in order to determine the best solution.

SAM Applications in Urban Locations and Space

SAM is equipped with robust learning algorithms that increases in efficiency and accuracy over time. The process is supplemented with logs and records of previous events, allowing other cars in the network to benefit from the data.  

In urban environments, SAM can be leveraged to help a self-driving vehicle park autonomously. Nissan and NASA are also working on ‘fatigue-free' seats for passengers. The seats adjust weight distribution in real-time, moving the passengers weight from the lower spine area to the chest. The shift in weight distribution helps reduce muscle fatigue, resulting in more comfortable rides.

"Our goal is to deploy SAM to help third-party organizations safely integrate a fleet of autonomous vehicles in unpredictable urban environments, for example, ride-hailing services, public transportation or logistics, and delivery services. The final stage of our existing research agreement with NASA will bring us closer to that goal and test SAM in a working demonstration on public streets," explained Sierhuis.

Although most of SAM's current applications are for scaling driverless fleets in large cities, NASA will not be joining Nissan in deploying the platform in urban locations. Instead, the national space agency plans to utilize SAM to power autonomous rovers during space exploration. In fact, SAM originated from NASA's Visual Environment for Remote Virtual Exploration (VERVE). This technology was created to manage far-flung robots in other planets.

Current NASA rovers, including the Mars Opportunity vessel, are experiencing rapid degradation during deployment in space. Without direct access to the units, engineers are forced to address issues from a remote location. 

Michael Cheng
Michael Cheng
Michael Cheng is a legal editor and technical writer with publications for Blackberry ISHN Magazine Houzz and Payment Week. He specializes in technology business and digesting hard data. Outside of work Michael likes to train for marathons spend time with his daughter and explore new places.
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