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NVIDIA makes first AI computer for autonomous cars a reality

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NVIDIA has partnered with Deutsche Post DHL to develop an autonomous fleet. (Submitted)

NVIDIA has passed its competition when it unveiled the world's first artificial intelligence computer designed to drive fully autonomous robo-taxis, the company announced Tuesday, Oct. 10 at the GPU Technology Conference in Munich, Germany.

"The reality is it needs more horsepower," said Danny Shapiro, senior director of Automotive at NVIDIA.

So NVIDIA developed a new system, codenamed Pegasus, that extends the NVIDIA DRIVE PX AI computing platform to handle Level 5 driverless vehicles. NVIDIA DRIVE PX Pegasus delivers over 320 trillion operations per second -- more than 10x the performance of its predecessor, NVIDIA DRIVE PX 2. The GPUs will be available in late 2018.

Shapiro said it provides a Level 5 riding experience with no steering wheel, pedals, mirrors or driver needed.

Calling "a true supercomputer for the car," Shapiro said NVIDIA DRIVE PX Pegasus will help make possible fully autonomous vehicles that will arrive on demand to safely whisk passengers to their destinations, bringing mobility to everyone, including the elderly and disabled.

NVIDIA is in the process of helping Deutsche Post DHL develop a driverless fleet of 3,400 vehicles and to incorporate autonomous features throughout the delivery process.

"It will enable a new delivery model that will be available 24/7," Shapiro said.

In this time of online shopping, the technology allows customers to order items and schedule delivery. An autonomous vehicle could deliver the package and the customer can sign for it, regardless of time of day or location, Shapiro explained.

"Creating a fully self-driving car is one of society's most important endeavors -- and one of the most challenging to deliver," said Jensen Huang, NVIDIA founder and CEO.

But the computational requirements of robo-taxis are enormous -- perceiving the world through high-resolution, 360-degree surround cameras and lidars, localizing the vehicle within centimeter accuracy, tracking vehicles and people around the car, and planning a safe and comfortable path to the destination.

All this processing must be done with multiple levels of redundancy to ensure the highest level of safety. The computing demands of driverless vehicles are easily 50 to 100 times more intensive than the most advanced cars today.

Huang said NVIDIA's industry-leading Pegasus "is crucial for the industry to realize this vision."

Of the 225 partners developing on the NVIDIA DRIVE PX platform, more than 25 are developing fully autonomous robo-taxis using NVIDIA CUDA GPUs.

Today, their trunks resemble small data centers, loaded with racks of computers with server-class NVIDIA GPUs running deep learning, computer vision and parallel-computing algorithms. Their size, power demands, and cost make them impractical for production vehicles.

The NVIDIA DRIVE PX platform scales from a single mobile processor configuration delivering Level 2+/Level 3 capabilities to a combination of multiple mobile processors and discrete GPUs for full Level 5.

These configurations run on a single, open software architecture. This enables automakers and tier 1 suppliers to move from development into production for a wide range of self-driving solutions -- from AutoCruise on the highway, to AutoChauffeur for point-to-point travel, to Pegasus for a fully autonomous vehicle.

"Driverless cars will enable new ride- and car-sharing services," Huang said. "New types of cars will be invented, resembling offices, living rooms or hotel rooms on wheels. Travelers will simply order up the type of vehicle they want, based on their destination and activities planned along the way. The future of society will be reshaped."

Shapiro also touted that millions of hours of lost time will be recaptured by drivers as they work, play, eat or sleep on their daily commutes. And countless lives will be saved by vehicles that are never fatigued, impaired or distracted -- increasing road safety, reducing congestion and freeing up valuable land currently used for parking lots.

NVIDIA DRIVE PX is part of a broad family of NVIDIA AI computing solutions. Data scientists who train their deep neural networks in the data center on the NVIDIA DGX-1TM AI supercomputer can seamlessly run on NVIDIA DRIVE PX inside the vehicle. The unified architecture enables the same NVIDIA DRIVE software algorithms, libraries and tools that run in the data center also perform inferencing in the car.

This cloud-to-car approach enables cars to receive over-the-air updates to add new features and capabilities throughout the life of a vehicle.

Pegasus will be available to NVIDIA automotive partners in the second half of 2018.


Michelle Willard, Editor of Renderosity Magazine | Former newspaper reporter. Recovering archaeologist. Political nerd. True crime junkie. Read her articles here

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Autonomous cars, driverless cars, GPU, NVIDIA, robotaxis
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