Nvidia is probably best known for its computer graphic cards. However, once automakers realized that the company’s GPUs could power their latest features, the chipmaker became one of the darlings of the car world.
Nvidia unveiled its latest artificial intelligence computer, named Pegasus, which was developed with self-driving cars in mind. The new computer can handle 320 trillion operations per second, 10 times more than its predecessor.
While automakers are still dropping level 2 and sometimes level 3 vehicles into the market, NVIDIA’s first AI computer, the NVIDIA Drive PX Pegasus, is apparently capable of level 5 autonomy. That means no pedals, steering wheel and no driver input.
The scale of autonomy for self-driving cars ranges from Level 1 cars (only basic controls such as throttle are handled by computers), up to Level 5 cars (cars are fully autonomous and they handle every single function just as a human driver would). It is important to note that today, most of the cars that have certain “self-driving features” fall in the Level 2 range, where the driver is responsible for controlling the vehicle most of the time.
Right now, if an automaker were to build a Level 5 self-driving car, it would need a trunk full of equipment. The computing power is needed for huge amounts of data coming from cameras, LiDAR sensors, short and long-range radars. Additionally, all required processing power uses puts a strain on the car’s batteries – the last thing automakers want, given that they are struggling with increasing their car’s autonomy.
However, Nvidia representatives claim that Pegasus cuts the number of needed servers to a computer the size of a license plate. Moreover, Pegasus has enough power to handle all the fail-safe processes needed to make sure that an autonomous car will never lose control.
Luca De Ambroggi, senior principal automotive analyst at IHS Markit declared: “Today, dozens of companies are racing to develop robotaxis, but they are still gated by the massive computation needs of a truly driverless car. The new Nvidia Drive PX Pegasus shows the path to production for the automakers, startups and automotive ecosystem working to deliver this amazing vision.”
Car producers will gain access to Pegasus in late 2018. Nvidia already announced it will partner with Deutsche Post and ZF that same year, to test self-delivery vehicles.