Nissan researches autonomous cars in Silicon Valley

Nissan opened its sixth worldwide research center in Sunnyvale, California, where it will research autonomous and connected car technologies.

Wayne Cunningham Managing Editor / Roadshow
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
Wayne Cunningham
Wayne Cunningham/CNET

Nissan opened a new research center in Sunnyvale, California this week, where it will develop autonomous and connected car technologies. The new center is expected to have a staff of 60 within four years.

Nissan held a launch event for the new center, with presentations by Professor Alex Pentland, Director of the Human Dynamics Laboratory at MIT, and Professor Chris Gerdes, Director of Stanford's Center for Automotive Research.

Gerdes focused his talk on his development of steer-by-wire technology at Stanford, undertaken with the assistance of Nissan. That type of technology enters production with the Infiniti Q50.

The new research center will focus on autonomous cars, connected cars, and human-machine interfaces as they relate to the preceding areas.

Autonomous car technology has become a hot topic for car companies, as evidenced by Audi and Lexus press conferences during CES 2013. Nissan emphasized that it did not envision a driverless car so much as technologies that would assist the driver in avoiding crashes. A truly autonomous production car will require policy and infrastructure changes taking years to implement.

Connected car technology has already seen deployment from the likes of many major automakers in some form or other. In this field, Nissan needs to catch up to the competition.

The new research center joins five others Nissan has around the world. The company also maintains 13 technical centers.

Nissan Research Center
Nissan's Eporo robots are the result of earlier research that used fish behavior to avoid collisions. Wayne Cunningham/CNET