Nissan's Self-Driving Cars Will Operate on the Same System as NASA's Mars Rovers

Friday, 06 January 2017 - 11:23AM
Technology
Friday, 06 January 2017 - 11:23AM
Nissan's Self-Driving Cars Will Operate on the Same System as NASA's Mars Rovers
Driverless cars are coming, and that's awesome (despite what Cixin Liu claims in his New York Times Article). We reported back in 2015 that Nissan was working with NASA to apply their rover tech to autonomous cars, and boom—now it's happening.

According to a new article in The Verge, Nissan has developed a system called SAM (Seamless Autonomous Mobility) that parallels the one NASA uses to navigate rovers like Curiosity on Mars, called VERVE (Visual Environment for Remote Virtual Exploration). Both systems work with the assumption that autonomous vehicles can deal with things like plotting courses and knowing when to stop or change direction, but that certain unique situations may require something outside of a vehicle's programming. This is where a human comes in:

Opening quote
SAM allows a "mobility manager" to examine vehicle images and sensor data when the car encounters something it can't handle and decide on the appropriate course of action. Nissan uses the example of a police officer using hand signals to direct a vehicle around a car accident. If the cop wants the car to head the wrong way down a one-way street, the autonomous vehicle may not be confident in its assessment of the situation and request assistance.
Closing quote

SAM will have a sort of HQ where humans can take requests for help from autonomous vehicles and guide them through unfamiliar situations, meaning that drivers ostensibly won't be stuck helpless when an expected detour or downed power-line prevents them from proceeding normally. One thing Nissan's "mobility managers" will be able to do is aid in path-finding by digitally drawing a course for the car, then letting it get back to its normal operations once the obstacle has been cleared. Even more impressive is that other autonomous cars in Nissan's fleet will be able to learn from these interactions and apply them to their own situations—ie, these cars can learn. However, it remains to be seen whether they can learn to power-slide or feel disdain for their human masters.
Either way, this news is almost as cool as learning that BMW may be designing a shape-shifting, self-driving Batmobile rip-off.
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