The two companies will focus their joint research efforts on the systems required for autonomous vehicles both in space and on Earth. NASA and Nissan will also look into human-machine interfaces, networking applications and software analysis.
Researchers for this partnership will be drawn from Nissan's Silicon Valley research facility and NASA's Ames Research Center in California.
According to Carlos Ghosn, Nissan and Renault CEO, "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 is targeting a 2020 on-sale for an autonomous car that can handle most road conditions and situations. This includes the most challenging situation facing engineers today, urban driving.
From the end of 2015 NASA and Nissan will operate a fleet of electric Leaf-based autonomous vehicles at the Ames facility, where the partners will test remote control of autonomous vehicles for transporting people and materials.
The space agency will gain access to Nissan's prototyping systems, robotic software test beds, and self-driving and driver assist technologies. The Japanese car maker will in turn draw on NASA's expertise in the remote control of vehicles, such as the Curiosity rover (above) currently on Mars.