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Nissan sets up Silicon Valley R&D Center

Autonomous driving a key goal of new research facility.

by on Feb.19, 2013

Nissan becomes the latest automaker to set up a Silicon Valley R&D center.

The Renault-Nissan Alliance is expanding its presence in Silicon Valley with the opening of a new advanced research center initially focusing on the development of autonomous driving and connected cars.

The Nissan Research Center Silicon Valley will enhance Nissan’s global research capability through collaborative partnerships with companies and research institutions based in what is generally considered one of the most advanced research centers in the world, Nissan officials said.

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Nissan joins a growing list of makers who have established a presence in the digital capital, including Ford, Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz.

Carla Balio, the head of Nissan Research and Development in North America, said in a recent interview the company was investing more into research on autonomous driving because it believes the technology will be critical to carmakers in the years to come. “It’s very important,” she said. The ultimate goal is to create safe, stress free mobility, she said.

Nissan’s Infiniti brand plans to introduce a new technology that could prove key to autonomous vehicles later this year. The new Infiniti Q50 sedan will offer an optional drive-by-wire system that removes the direct mechanical link between the steering wheel and the tires.

Initially, the new Silicon Valley Research Center will focus on the development of connected vehicles that can maximize motorists’ energy and efficiency – while also enhancing safety. The facility also explore the Human-Machine Interface to enhance the experience of autonomous and connected vehicles.

The new Silicon Valley research center will take responsibility for selected roles in collaboration with Nissan Research Center in Japan. In recent years, Nissan has transferred more responsibility for research and development to its research organization in the U.S. For example, engineers from Nissan Research and Development Center in Farmington Hills, Mi. are working on the development of advanced fuel cells.

Just last month Nissan entered into a three-way alliance for the development of hydrogen technology with Daimler AG and Ford Motor Co.

Nissan also has joined up with several other automakers as part of the connected car research program now underway in Ann Arbor, Michigan under the auspices of the University of Michigan and the US Department of Transportation.

Nissan Executive Vice President supervising Research and Development Mitsuhiko Yamashita said Monday during a visit to the new R&D center, “As we continue to expand our R&D capabilities throughout the world, we aggressively pursue our activities to create new values of mobility, by harnessing the latest information and communication technologies here in our new research center in Silicon Valley.”

In 2011, engineers from Nissan and its corporate strategic partner Renault set up a research center in nearby Mountain View. The teams will now continue their work in the larger Sunnyvale lab. Renault’s primary focus in Silicon Valley is advance research on vehicle connectivity and related topics.

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