Nissan believes it can have autonomous "self-driving" cars in showrooms within a decade, thanks in part to a newly opened research center in California's Silicon Valley.
The company has opened an advanced r&d center in Sunnyvale, Calif., in the heart of the San Francisco Bay computer industry, which will have 60 researchers focused on autonomous technologies.
But to propel the automaker's thinking, Nissan won't staff the project with experienced vehicle engineers. Instead, it will tap the nonautomotive world for new ideas and approaches to vehicle technology, says Carla Bailo, Nissan Americas' Detroit-based senior vice president for r&d.
"We don't want these people to be from the auto industry," Bailo says of the planned jobs. "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.
A specialist in the field of artificial intelligence, Sierhuis made his first visit to an auto plant only last month when Bailo took him on a tour of Nissan's U.S. operations.
In addition to working with NASA, Sierhuis was a professor at a university in the Netherlands and has worked with Xerox, IBM and the telecommunications company NYNEX.