LIVE FROM CES 2018, LAS VEGAS: Nvidia unveiled partnerships with several leading automotive companies alongside a pair of new autonomous driving platforms as the chip maker seeks to bring the technology into the real world.

Top of the list was a partnership with Volkswagen (VW) to infuse artificial intelligence (AI) co-pilot technology into its next generation of vehicles using Drive IX (one of the new platforms Nvidia unveiled). The car maker will use Nvidia’s technology to offer driver aids based on data gathered from internal and external sensors in a platform the companies stated can be updated with new features via software updates.

VW plans to begin introducing autonomous driving features in 2020.

Nvidia also teamed with Uber to develop an AI computing system which will power a fleet of self-driving cars and freight vehicles for the taxi-booking company, which began working on autonomous capabilities in 2015.

Germany-based car parts maker ZF Friedrichshafen and Chinese internet giant Baidu turned to Nvidia’s recently commercialised Drive Xavier processor as the basis for a production-ready AI autonomous vehicle platform for China. For Baidu it is the second move in the self-driving space in recent days: the company last week teamed with BlackBerry to develop technology using the latter’s QNX software.

Self-driving system company Aurora plans to build Level 4 and Level 5 self-driving hardware platforms on the chip company’s Xavier processor.

AI integration
Nvidia also announced a pair of platforms based on the Drive Xavier System on Chip (SoC) designed to deeply integrate artificial intelligence (AI) into the driving experience. Included in the new software stack are Drive IX, which aims to make it easier for developers to build in-car AI using interior and exterior sensor data, and Drive AR, an augmented reality (AR) SDK covering navigation, and environment mapping and tracking. Those complement Nvidia’s original Drive AV platform, which features neural network capabilities allowing cars to drive themselves.

“[Autonomous vehicles] can save millions of lives and, frankly, trillions of dollars” Nvidia founder and CEO Jensen Huang (pictured) said during a presentation on Sunday (7 January).

The Xavier processors were announced little more than a year ago and are being sent out for sample this quarter. Huang added they should go into mass production by the year-end.

All told, more than 320 partners are already developing using Nvidia’s open Drive platform. Huang said Nvidia created an open system for a reason: “We’ve created an open platform so partners all over the world can take advantage of the technology that we’ve created but also put on top of it their own…it’s impossible for any one company to do it all, but it’s possible for us to work together on an open platform.”