Microprocessor and chip maker NVIDIA is using artificial intelligence onboard its newest computer system that will power Chinese web company Baidu's self-driving car, according to a Reuters report. Baidu is the Chinese equivalent of Google, and operates the country's most popular search engine of the same name that holds a 56.3% market share. NVIDIA, as some of us know, is famous for its Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) that powers many high-end gaming PCs and laptops, as well as super-fast mobile processors like the Tegra series. But NVIDIA has been eyeing the artificial intelligence space for quite some time now. Because AI requires a very high level of computational power.
More and more tech companies are jumping on to the self-driving bandwagon, with Nvidia being the latest entrant to give the likes of Intel, Google, Uber and others company. The company known for its graphics cards for computers got the approval to test autonomous vehicles from the state of California on Thursday, and its Nvidia BB8 was out on public roads Friday. The idea for a Nvidia self-driving car was floated in 2015 when co-founder and CEO Jen-Hsun Huang sat down with Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, for an interview. "What NVIDIA is doing with Tegra is really interesting and really important for self-driving in the future," Musk said at the time. Tegra is a mobile processor brand from Nvidia.
Intel is no longer satisfied just partnering with other companies to create self-driving cars: it wants to own the whole stack. The chip maker just announced it intends to purchase Jerusalem-based Mobileye for $15.3 billion. The two companies were already working together on various projects. The pair announced a partnership with BMW in July 2016 with the aim of putting an autonomous car on the streets by 2021. Then in November, the two companies partnered with auto parts maker Delphi to create the Automated Driving Group, which will create a self-driving car system that can be sold to automakers.
Putting self-driving cars on the streets requires a lot of computing power. Most test cars on the road have PC towers in their trunk that take up space, suck up power and produce a lot of heat. With that in mind Daimler (the parent company of Mercedes-Benz) and Bosch have announced they will be using the NVIDIA Drive Pegasus self-driving AI platform. The NVIDIA system can tackle an impressive 320 trillion operations per second. All the parties involved in this new venture hope this will be enough to power level 4 and 5 vehicles which will be used as robo-taxis.