US: NASA’s Kennedy Space Center has recently joined a partnership with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to help in developing self-driving cars. To submit a multi-faceted proposal related to research and development of autonomous vehicles, the Central Florida Automated Vehicle Partnership was formed.
Early this year, the U.S. Department of Transportation‘s then-Secretary Anthony Foxx announced that DOT had selected the Central Florida partnership as one of 10 proving ground pilot sites around the country to encourage testing and communicating information about automated vehicle technologies. The partnership includes organizations from government, industry and academia.
The role NASA’s Kennedy Space Center comes under it, that is controlled testing of automated vehicles and associated technologies were included as a significant factor favoring the proposal.
“This group will openly share best practices for the safe conduct of testing and operations as they are developed,” Foxx said, “enabling the participants and the general public to learn at a faster rate and accelerating the pace of safe deployment.”
According to Tom Engler, NASA’s director of Center Planning and Development at Kennedy, this project is another example of Kennedy serving as a premier, multi-user spaceport.
“This project holds the potential to benefit NASA by promoting advanced technologies that may have agency mission-related applications,” he said.
“We have a broad range of capabilities,” said Amy Houts Gilfriche, a NASA Partnership Development manager in Center Planning and Development. “If we can contribute to developing new, cutting-edge technology of the future, we want to help.”
Kennedy engineers already have been playing a crucial role in developing automated vehicles. The center’s Swamp Works team recently tested instruments for a major heavy equipment manufacturer. Engineers analyzed how some of the sensors would respond when used on automated vehicles in extreme environments.
These experiments allow researchers and manufacturers to understand how software and hardware will react in difficult conditions within a safe, controlled setting with minimal risk. According to Rob Mueller, a senior technologist with Kennedy’s Exploration Research and Technology Programs, there are many situations where a sensor such as a camera, radar or other type of instrument could be compromised.