Company / division: Nvidia
Nvidia has announced Pegasus, a mini-computer which it claims is powerful enough to operate all the functions of a self-driving car while having roughly the footprint of a license plate, and which will become available in the second half of 2018. One of the key challenges with self-driving cars is that the computing power to run them is often so large and power-intensive that the unit often takes up much of the trunk of the car (see this Google search) and requires significant fuel over and above that required by the engine. Miniaturizing that processing power and making it more efficient is key to making autonomous driving a reality, albeit only one of several big challenges that must be overcome before that happens. Nvidia is arguably the current leader in providing the GPUs and related technology for these cars today, while others have taken the lead in sensors or connectivity relating to the cars, and this leadership has been a huge boon to Nvidia’s overall prospects and performance.
Nvidia Announces Strong Earnings for March 2017 Quarter (May 9, 2017)
Nvidia Partners with Bosch and Truck Maker Around Autonomy (Mar 16, 2017)
Here are two partnership announcements from Nvidia, the first a deal with automotive component maker Bosch to incorporate Nvidia chips in self-driving solutions, and the second with truck maker PACCAR for self-driving truck technology. Nvidia continues to be one of the biggest names in autonomous driving, and certainly one of the most successful chip vendors (hence Intel’s Mobileye deal). These deals come on top of lots of existing ones, but trucks are a particularly interesting area – it feels like that’s a segment of the market that could actually see real-world adoption of autonomy much sooner than cars.
This is a good summary of the way in which Intel is now being challenged not just in mobile by ARM architectures but in AI by Nvidia and AMD too. That means that Intel is now falling behind in the two most important new chip use cases, not just one, and that its big bets on IoT and wearables will likely end up looking marginal next to AI as the next big opportunity for chip vendors. Add in cars, where Nvidia is also doing very well, and suddenly things start to look pretty bleak for Intel. There’s a great deeper dive here on the WSJ too.
Though lots of the fuss about AI in cars relates to autonomous driving, the reality is that we’re many years from broad scale autonomous driving, and so what we’ll get in the meantime is lots of technology that assists human drivers rather than doing the driving itself. This Nvidia-Mercedes partnership is very much in this category, though we don’t know all the details yet, but we’ll see lots more of this kind of thing in the next few years, which in turn will help train AIs to take over the driving later on.
Audi Pushes Toward Fully Autonomous Cars – WSJ (Jan 5, 2017)
Nvidia has been making big strides in the car technology space, and made more news this week at CES with a partnership with Audi. This is one of the most interesting battles among the major chipmakers at the moment, and Nvidia does seem to be doing well, while Intel and Qualcomm also make advances (both also made news at CES this week).
Nvidia has been one of the great chip success stories of the last couple of years, coming at the market from a new angle and outperforming competitors including Intel in emerging opportunities like autonomous driving. This is a great summary of that strategy and trajectory.