Nvidia creates first automotive supercomputer

Michael Martinez
The Detroit News

Las Vegas — Computer chip-maker Nvidia Corp. has created what it says is the first supercomputer for an automobile, and Volvo Car Group is the first automaker to purchase it.

Nvidia, at the CES 2016 technology trade show, announced its Drive PX 2 with eight teraflops of processing power — the equivalent to the power in 150 MacBook Pros — that can help in the complex sensor-detecting capabilities needed in fully driverless cars and trucks. That much power can allow the car to easily scan 360 degrees around the car to detect animals, pedestrians, cars, debris and other objects.

The Swedish carmaker — which was sold by Ford Motor Co. to China’s Geely Automotive Holdings in 2010 — will use the Drive PX 2 system in a fleet of 100 Volvo XC90 SUVs that will be on roads next year as part of its driverless car pilot, called “Drive Me.” Volvo said the cars will drive autonomously on roads around Gothenburg.

“Our vision is that no one should be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo by the year 2020,” Marcus Rothoff, director of the Autonomous Driving Program at Volvo Cars, said in a statement. “Nvidia’s high performance and responsive automotive platform is an important step towards our vision and perfect for our autonomous drive program and the Drive Me project.”

Nvidia said the Drive PX 2 is about the size of a tablet, compared to earlier prototypes where the computers took up the entire trunk space of a car.

The supercomputer will utilize what it calls “deep learning” to understand what’s going on at all times around a car. That can be used during navigation to determine the fastest route despite accidents and debris on the road, and to stitch together a 360-degree view immediately around the vehicle.

“Volvo’s Drive Me project is the ideal application of our Drive PX 2 engine and deep learning,” Rob Csongor, vice president and general manager of Automotive at Nvidia, said in a statement. “We are bringing years of work by thousands of NVIDIA engineers to help Volvo achieve its safety goals and move self-driving cars from Gothenburg to the rest of the globe.”


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