Nissan Leaf
Nissan will share its autonomous car technologies with Nasa and its Mars rover developmentReuters

Nissan has teamed up with Nasa to develop self-driving cars which will not only get you to the shops, but also take astronauts across Mars.

The car manufacturer and US space agency have announced a five-year partnership which will see their engineers work together to develop autonomous vehicles of the future.

Technology developed for autonomous road cars will be shared with Nasa to improve its Mars rovers, which currently rely on instructors sent from Earth through a heavily-delayed connection.

Nissan will be testing autonomous, zero-emissions cars - such as its all-electric Leaf - at Nasa's Ames Research Centre in California, reports Wired. The car maker hopes to have a vehicle testing on the road by the end of this year, and for sale to the public by 2020, a time frame previously estimated by the Japanese company and other car makers.

Self-driving cars are set to be big business in the coming years, and dominated the CES technology trade show in Las Vegas this week. But consumers will need convincing that such cars can be safe, as a recent survey found half of Britons would not ride in an autonomous car, with many citing concerns over safety and insurance implications.

Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn said: "When we talk about autonomous drive, we're transforming the relationship between the driver and the car from a master to slave, to a kind of partner...we gain time, we gain knowledge, we gain expertise. That's what the whole this is about...moving as fast as we can."

Nasa also has much to gain from the partnership. Pete Worden, director of the Ames Research Centre, said: "The more we look at it, the more there are a lot of similarities there...we have a rover on Mars. It is not very autonomous. As we go deeper into space, into more and more dangerous locations, we need to add that autonomy."