Automotive engineers need not apply for the 60 r&d positions that Nissan North America plans to create at its newly opened advanced product development center in California's Silicon Valley.
Nissan wants to tap the nonautomotive world for new ideas and approaches to vehicle technology.
The center in Sunnyvale, Calif., which Nissan declared open today, will focus on advanced work on a future generation of autonomous vehicles capable of driving themselves according to an occupant's commands.
The center also will work on technology to advance vehicle-to-vehicle communications, and to improve the way drivers interact with technologies inside their cars.
But the automaker doesn't intend to turn over the work to experienced automotive engineers, says Carla Bailo, Nissan Americas senior vice president for r&d.
"We don't want these people to be from the auto industry," Bailo says. "I envision a very diverse group from different industries to provide us with a new gene pool. We want their innovative and fresh ideas."
In a hiring move that sets the tone for the research center, Nissan has recruited a former NASA scientist, Maarten Sierhuis, to lead the project.
Sierhuis, a specialist in artificial intelligence, made his first visit to an auto plant last week when Bailo took him on a tour of Nissan's U.S. operations.
In addition to working with NASA, the former Dutch university professor also has worked with Xerox, IBM and the telecommunications company NYNEX.
Bailo says the Silicon Valley area of the San Francisco Bay, where many of the world's leading computer and software companies are clustered, offers a rich pool of potential talent.
Nissan's new office will be working through r&d partnerships with a number of universities, including the University of California, Berkeley, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Bailo believes autonomous cars could be in showrooms within a decade. But she cautioned that many side issues need to be resolved first, concerning safety, vehicle communications, highway infrastructure, insurance rules and regulatory policies.
Nissan has recruited a former NASA scientist, Maarten Sierhuis, to lead its Silicon Valley research center.
Photo credit: NISSAN
A small number of staff members from Nissan Motor Co.'s technical center in Atsugi, Japan, will transfer to Sunnyvale to assist, Bailo says. But, she adds, "If all we wanted to do was re-create the resources we already have in Atsugi, we would've done it there."
The new office will focus on Nissan's North American business, she says, and will report directly to her at Nissan's r&d operation in suburban Detroit.
"We're going to be doing things that are not the way we've been doing them," Bailo says. "We want this group to be innovative, and that's people with outside experience."