Nvidia Enlists Big Names in Autonomous Driving Push

At CES 2018 in Las Vegas, Nvidia — one of the leading software and hardware companies in the driverless vehicle space — made it clear that it doesn’t take its industry-leading position in autonomous vehicle systems lightly.

“Now, we’ve built PCs, laptops, game consoles, supercomputers and I can tell you, without exception, building a computer for autonomous vehicles is of a level of complexity the world has never known,” CEO Jensen Huang told a crowd of over 1,000.

“This computer is on all the time, monitoring all of the sensors that are coming at it,” he added. “It can never fail — it can never fail — because lives are at stake. And it has to make the right decision, running software the world has never known how to write.”

Big-time computing capabilities are an under-appreciated aspect of the self-driving car. Nvidia claims autonomous vehicles will require 50 to 100 times as much computing power as the connected cars of today.

Nonetheless, it appears that many in the autonomous vehicle space think Nvidia is up to the challenge. At CES, Huang announced that Nvidia now has a staggering 320 partnerships with other companies in the self-driving car category. While many of the collaborations were previously known, this was the first time Nvidia itself had released a complete tally of them all.

Nvidia also took the opportunity to announce four more collaborations. The company revealed new deals with UberVolkswagenZF and Baidu, as well as Mercedes-Benz.

When Uber first launched its self-driving Volvo XC90s on Pittsburgh roads in 2015, it used Nvidia GPU computing technology. Now as Uber expands its fleet of self-driving cars and fleet trucks, it will continue to utilize Nvidia technology.

Volkswagen plans to leverage the Nvidia Drive IX platform, an AI software development kit, to transform cockpit experiences for drivers and create improved safety features. Features built through Nvidia Drive IX will be incorporated in the forthcoming I.D. Bus, Volkswagen’s electric, AI-infused re-imagining of the classic VW Microbus.

“Artificial intelligence is revolutionizing the car,” noted Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess. “Autonomous driving, zero-emission mobility and digital networking are virtually impossible without advances in AI and deep learning. Combining the imagination of Volkswagen with Nvidia, the leader in AI technology, enables us to take a big step into the future.”

The Nvidia-ZF-Baidu project is a tricontinental one, as the California software company will be working with the German auto supplier and the Chinese tech giant to combine their proprietary AV technologies to build a single China-specific autonomous vehicle platform. The technologies involved are ZF’s ProAI car computer, Baidu’s Apollo open driverless platform, and the newly announced Nvidia Drive Xavier, an autonomous machine processor.

Nvidia also announced a deal with Mercedes-Benz. Similar to its project with Volkswagen, Nvidia is partnering with Mercedes-Benz to build a new vehicle cockpit experience, known as MBUX, designed for the driverless age.

“I want to build the world’s most advanced cockpit of the future and it’s going to have amazing computer graphics but most important is that it will have artificial intelligence so it can revolutionize the user experience,” said Huang.

It’s an overwhelming list of projects for Nvidia, and one that will require time to fully work through. But given the stature of the company’s partners, it’s safe to say that no roundup of CES “winners” in 2018 will be complete without the inclusion of Nvidia.

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