For the past year, NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley and automaker Nissan have been collaborating on the development of autonomous driving technologies that could one day be used in future consumer vehicles, robotic rovers on Mars and other space exploration missions.
On Wednesday, January 6, a group of senior executives from the Renault-Nissan Alliance, including Carlos Ghosn, chairman and CEO of Nissan, and Jose Munoz, chairman of Nissan North America, visited Ames for meetings and a showcase of the technical partnership between NASA and Nissan North America. The partnership allows researchers to develop and test autonomy algorithms, concepts, and integrated prototypes for a variety of vehicular transport applications – from rovers to self-driving cars. After briefings, the group observed testing of Nissan’s all-electric LEAF as it performed safe autonomous drives across the center. Drive demonstrations were conducted with the Nissan representatives as well as Ames’ Director Eugene Tu and Associate Director Steven Zornetzer. The Nissan LEAF vehicle is equipped with cameras, sensors and cellular data networking, and uses robotics software originally developed for Ames’ K-10 and K-REX planetary rovers to operate autonomously.
“This is not only a demonstration of the transfer of space technology to industry, but also the application of their research back to our space technology, with additional uses for our unmanned aircraft systems research here at Ames,” said Tu. “This is a perfect example of technology literally driving exploration and enabling future space missions.”
For more information about NASA’s autonomous systems and robotics, visit:
Robert Lawrence Kuhn is the creator, writer and host of “Closer to Truth,” a public television series and online resource that features the world’s leading thinkers exploring humanity’s deepest questions (Peter Getzels, producer/director). Kuhn contributed this article to Live Science’s Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.
Artificial intelligence (AI) pervades people’s lives today, from smartphones and search engines to transportation systems and medical diagnoses. One of AI’s legendary pioneers, Marvin Minsky, co-founder of what is now the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and considered to be the “father of AI,” died on Jan. 24, 2016, at age 88.
Polymathic in capacity, protean in vision, Minksy spent his life figuring out how to make machines that are intelligent, “whatever that means,” as he liked to say. He developed AI’s two principle schools of thought: the “symbolic school” of abstract manipulations and the “connectionist school” of unstructured self-organization. He built the first learning machine based on neural networks, simulating how the brain works through practice and trial and error, a progenitor of today’s “deep learning.”