For over a decade, video game maker Nvidia has been working with a number of automakers including Honda, BMW, Volkswagen and Tesla, to develop some of the “smartest” cars on the roads.
Speaking at the company’s developer conference in San Jose last week, Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang said that the company’s new Drive PX “self-driving car computer” will teach cars how to drive themselves in a way that’s very similar to teaching an infant to throw a ping pong ball.
The machine learning method, which Huang calls “if-then-else” allows vehicles to, in essence, learn through experience because programming for every possible eventuality is simply not possible. This was the same approach taken in 2003 by the Darpa project called “Dave.” In that project, a human driver navigated a vehicle around a series of obstacles while Dave processed information provided by a vehicle-mounted video camera. Over time the computer “learned” which obstacles could be driven over, and which ones needed to be avoided.
Nvidia’s new Drive PX uses two Tegra X1 processors provide 2.3 teraflops of processing power, and are reportedly 3,000 times faster than those that were used in the Darpa project, and can process video from 12 cameras, or a combination of video, radar and lasers and enable a range of advanced driver assistance features like collision avoidance, driver-state and cross-traffic monitoring, and pedestrian detection systems to run simultaneously.
According to the Nvidia website “each individual superchip is no bigger than a thumbnail.” Huang said Drive PX “is the most advanced [car] computing platform on the planet.”
Drive PX will go on sale to automakers, universities and tier 1 automotive suppliers beginning in May. For $10,000 buyers will receive the Drive PX computer hardware and software needed to develop their own autonomous-drive vehicle. According to Nvidia’s senior director of auto marketing Danny Shapiro, Drive PX will provide automakers with a platform that will allow them to develop self-driving autos faster and more easily. Drive PX is already in use by Audi in its zentrale Fahrerassistenzsteuergerät (zFAS) system. Audi’s head of electronics Ricky Hudi says Drive PX is a crucial tool in the automaker’s autonomous technology research and development.
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