The Renault-Nissan Alliance is expanding its presence in Silicon Valley.

The company has done so with the opening of a new research center initially specializing in autonomous driving and connected cars.

The official opening of the Nissan Research Center Silicon Valley (NRC-SV) was held February 18. Nissan said this center will enhance Nissan’s global research capability through collaborative partnerships with companies and research institutions in this global technology hub.

The opening of NRC-SV is part of Nissan’s global strategy to expand and localize its R&D function in strategic markets. The new Silicon Valley research center will take responsibility for selected roles in collaboration with Nissan Research Center in Japan.

The initial projects that Nissan researchers will pursue include research on autonomous vehicles; research on connected vehicles that can tap into infrastructure and the Internet to maximize energy and time efficiency; and research in the area of Human Machine Interface to enhance the experience of autonomous and connected vehicles.

In addition, Nissan said planning and advanced development of connected vehicle services and the design of user interface systems will also be studied as a complementary field to the above disciplines.

“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,” said Nissan Executive Vice President supervising Research and Development Mitsuhiko Yamashita.

In 2011, engineers from Nissan and its corporate strategic partner Renault opened an office in Mountain View. The teams will now continue their work in the larger Sunnyvale lab.

Dr. Maarten Sierhuis (low res version)Nissan chose Dr. Maarten Sierhuis as research director to lead the NRC-SV. Sierhuis, a recognized expert in the field of artificial intelligence, will lead the new center’s efforts in the areas of autonomous driving and connected-vehicle systems.

According to Nissan, Sierhuis joins the company following a career in research and software engineering spanning 25 years, including time with NASA, Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, NYNEX Science & Technology, IBM Corporation, and as a founder of startup Ejenta, as well as a visiting professor and fellow with the Interactive Intelligence group at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands.

Sierhuis has a bachelor of science in Computer Science from The Hague University and a Ph.D. in Artificial Intelligence/Cognitive Science from the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands.