CES 2018: Uber, Baidu and Volkswagen rely on Nvidia to improve their autonomous driving technology
The Las Vegas CES does not officially begin until Tuesday, January 9, but the conference ball has already started on the other side of the Atlantic. Among the first companies to take the plunge, Nvidia marked the spirits by announcing several major partnerships. During its keynote in Las Vegas, the graphics processor supplier positioned itself as a major player in the autonomous car segment to support companies that are perfecting their technology in this area. To date, Nvidia works with more than 320 partners on autonomous driving.
To ally with prestigious partners, Nvidia has developed variants of its DRIVE AI platform, which is based on the Soc (System-on-a-Chip) Xavier. This chip, the first samples of which should be delivered during the first quarter of 2018, includes a customized 8-core GPU, a Volta 512-core GPU, an accelerator for deep learning, accelerators for computer vision as well as a processor for 8K HDR video.
3 new versions of DRIVE AI
In line with DRIVE AI, Nvidia unveiled DRIVE AR, which offers developers an SDK allowing them to create new experiences for the user in terms of augmented reality, in particular to inform them more easily about traffic conditions without leaving the road of the eyes. For its part, DRIVE IX aims to facilitate the development of intelligent assistants and their integration, for both driver and passengers, by relying on sensors positioned outside and inside the car. In addition, Nvidia presented a new version of its Pegasus platform for autonomous vehicles. It will be equipped with two Xavier chips associated with two GPUs in order to be able to calculate up to 320,000 billion operations per second.
With this arsenal of artificial intelligence for the autonomous car, Nvidia announced in Las Vegas the continuation of its collaboration with Uber. Since its first tests carried out with its fleet of Volvo XC90 SUVs, the VTC platform has already used GPUs from Nvidia. To date, Uber’s self-driving vehicles have driven more than three million kilometers, including over 50,000 passenger trips. The autonomous car is a vital issue for Uber since it could allow the American firm to achieve profitability. In this direction, Uber ordered 24,000 autonomous vehicles from the Swedish manufacturer Volvo in November 2017. However, the road is still long for the VTC platform, entangled in a legal dispute with Waymo, the subsidiary of Google.
Baidu’s Apollo project available to Nvidia
In addition to Uber, Nvidia has also joined forces with the Chinese giant Baidu and the German supplier ZF, both partners since September to develop complete technical solutions for autonomous driving in China. In Las Vegas, Jensen Huang, CEO of Nvidia, indicated that the DRIVE AI platform would be used for Baidu’s Apollo project. The latter aims to make the Chinese group’s platform dedicated to autonomous vehicles available to players in the automotive industry, mainly manufacturers, so that they can develop their own autonomous vehicles. In this way, Nvidia will be able to access the Chinese market, which has become the most important in the world.
Uber for North America, Baidu for Asia, but also Volkswagen for Europe. The German manufacturer will indeed rely on Nvidia’s DRIVE IX platform to design “intelligent co-piloting” features in future Volkswagen cars to make them easier to drive and safer. This could lead in particular to unlocking the door via facial recognition or even monitoring the driver to check his level of attention on the road. These features will be tested on the ID Buzz, the prototype electric van developed by Volkswagen. This should go into production by 2022.