Nvidia superchip dives into self-driving cars

By RELAXNEWS | 7 January 2015

At the 2015 International CES, Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang took the wraps off two new automotive computers that will be able to give the digital dashboard of the future a photo-realistic feel and cope with all of the incredibly complex processing that will be needed in order for self-driving cars to travel collision-free.

The Nvidia Drive PX packs the same punch as a turn of the Millennium supercomputer, uses two processors and can simultaneously crunch through data coming from 12 individual high-resolution cameras.

At the moment, the most technologically advanced cars use a combination of sensor types, including cameras, in order to navigate the road ahead, stay in lane and maintain a safe distance from the car in front.

However, the next generation of these systems, which will bring fully-autonomous driving one step closer to reality, will do away with other sensors for higher resolution cameras, capable of capturing and identifying greater and greater levels of detail.

"Mobile supercomputing will be central to tomorrow's car," said Jen-Hsun Huang.

"With vast arrays of cameras and displays, cars of the future will see and increasingly understand their surroundings. Whether finding their way back to you from a parking spot or using situational awareness to keep out of harm's way, future cars will do many amazing, seemingly intelligent things. Advances in computer vision, deep learning and graphics have finally put this dream within reach."

The Drive PX is already capable of enabling a car to find a parking space and to park itself even in a crowded garage and has the learning capabilities to be able to discern different types of vehicle - from police cars to delivery vans and whether a car is parked or waiting to pull away.

While the Drive PX is monitoring what's going on outside, the Drive CX computer powers the car's digital dashboard and can even keep a digital eye on the driver. Capable of powering 16.8 million pixels across multiple displays, Nvidia claims that the computer's graphical capabilities are 10 times that of the current best systems.

This level of detail means that a digital rendering of a rev counter or speedometer will look as good as an analogue gauge and will bend and appear to move depending on the driver's line of sight.

The Drive CX can also support everything from navigation and infotainment to offering 360 degree views of the car's exterior for eliminating blind spots.

In a related CES development, Daimler on Monday showed its vision of the driverless car, a prototype vehicle that allows four passengers to face each other as the vehicle finds its way.

"In the future, the car brings access to the single most important luxury goods of the 21st century private space and quality time," said Daimler chief Dieter Zetsche, as he unveiled the self-driving Mercedes-Benz luxury sedan F 015.

Vehicles, he said, "will be exclusive cocoons on wheels that enable people to do exactly what they want."

The futuristic designed car with a sweeping curved form factor still has a steering wheel, unlike the Google driverless vehicle, but the driver's seat and front passenger seat can pivot to allow the vehicle to become a "private retreat," according to Daimler.

"This is what we believe will be next in the terms of the car's design, concept and communication," Zetsche said.

The prototype was to take a driver along the Las Vegas Strip later Monday before being put on display at the huge tech show set to open Tuesday.

The show is devoting an increasing amount of space to automotive technology, including vehicles that offer some autonomy and greater connectivity.