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Nvidia hails a robotaxi with next step in AI computing

Nvidia's AI computing platform packs the power of a data centre into a supercomputer the size of a license plate.

By April Slattery

The race to take bring autonomous vehicles to the road is one currently being driven by the biggest names in tech and manufacturing, with Intel, Tesla, Google, and Ford just some of those already on the AI starting grid. Nvidia has today upped its proposition in the market, announcing what it claims to be is the world’s first AI computer for robotaxis.

Nvidia’s vision for robotaxis, a new class of fully autonomous vehicles, will see cars with no drivers, a steering wheel, pedals or mirrors. Instead it gives passengers better comfort, with interiors designed like a home or office to make passengers feel as comfortable as on a train journey.

It will be the first of its kind among the autonomous vehicle market, as Nvidia race ahead and offer passengers an on demand service to take them to their destination and giving accessibility to everyone including elderly and disabled passengers.

Nvidia believes that robotaxis will reduce accidents on the road, by eliminating tired or distracted drivers and increase road safety by reducing congestion. Millions of hours will also be saved by commuters, with passengers able to work, sleep, eat or play while on their daily commute.

The technology making robotaxis a possibility is Nvidia’s Drive PX AI platform, dubbed Pegasus, which delivers all the capabilities of a data centre in a supercomputer the size of a license plate. The chip maker also claims that the tech runs at the fraction of the energy requirements and cost of existing AI systems.

The size of the Nvidia tech is being pitched as a game changer for autonomous cars, with existing developers having their cars overloaded with racks of computers with serverless NVIDIA GPUs running deep learning algorithms. The size, cost and power demands of existing AI computing solutions, Nvidia claims, makes them impractical for production vehicles.

Commenting on the next step in AI computing, Jensen Huang, NVIDIA founder and CEO, said: “Creating a fully self-driving car is one of society’s most important endeavours — and one of the most challenging to deliver. Our breakthrough achievement in building an AI supercomputer of unprecedented efficiency and performance makes that vision possible.

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“With Pegasus monitoring the surroundings and safely driving, the industry can offer a range of new vehicle types, resembling offices, living rooms or hotel rooms on wheels. Travellers will simply order up the type of vehicle they want, based on their destination and activities planned along the way.”

As well as speeding ahead in the robotaxi market, Nvidia has also announced a partnership with mail company Deutsche Post DHL (DPDHL) and automotive supplier ZF. The partnership aims to produce a fleet of autonomous delivery vehicles starting in 2018. The fleet will use ZF’s ProAI self-driving platform for the vehicles, based on Nvidia’s Drive PX AI platform.

Nvidia hails a robotaxi with next step in AI computing

Autonomous Delivery Trucks will be based on Nvidia’s Drive PX platform

To date, DPDHL has a fleet of 3,400 electric delivery vehicles that can be equipped with ZF’s multiple sensors, including cameras and radar sensors that feed into the ZF ProAI system. By doing so, it will enable the vehicle to use AI to capture real-time data of its environment and plan a safe forward path along a selected route and park itself, hoping deliveries can be made more accurately and safely at a much lower cost.

Jürgen Gerdes, member of the Board of Management at Deutsche Post AG said: “Research and development of ecological, economical and efficient transportation will bring dramatic changes to the logistics industry.

“Partnering with NVIDIA and ZF will enable us to responsibly support this development, benefit from it and reinforce our position as the industry´s innovation leader.”

In a whirlwind of announcements from Nvidia, it doesn’t stop there as the company also debuted a virtual reality (VR) platform, Holodeck.

Holodeck will bring developers, designers and their customers together from any location around the world to discover, build and explore creations in a realistic, joint and physically simulated VR environment.

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The VR platform’s photoreal experience pushes creativity, brings a faster and more accurate understanding of a model and reduces the need for physical prototyping. Holodeck’s realistic graphics, accurate physicals and multi-user ability has already enabled it to be an influential design lab for AI developers.

Developers and designers given early access will be able to create and interact with people, robots and objects across a physically simulated environment, work together in real time virtual space and increase workflow with AI-powered tools.

Bob Pette, Vice President of Professional Visualization at NVIDIA, said: “NVIDIA Holodeck empowers designers to bring peers, partners and customers along the design journey to explore intricate, life-like 3D worlds together and ensure that the best ideas are discovered.

“It’s an unparalleled environment for deploying and testing AI-based agents — and will only get better as we add more AI capabilities.”

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