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January 5, 2016updated 31 Aug 2016 12:19pm

Is the future of connected car analytics over LTE or in supercomputers?

News: Nvidia are going down the route of internal processing power while Toyota look to their Big Data Centre.

By James Nunns

At the Consumer Electronics Show in 2015, car manufacturers paid heavy attention to the Internet of Things, with the focus in 2016 appearing to be centred on big data.

Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang used his keynote at the show in Las Vegas to reveal a car ‘supercomputer’, dubbed the Drive PX2. The lunchbox sized processor has been designed with the power equivalent of 150 MacBook Pros.

Offering 12 CPU cores that will support a combined eight teraflops and 24 deep learning tera operations per second, its purpose is to support the connected car, "a self driving supercomputer that fits nicely in your trunk," said Huang.

Volvo will be the first users of the system, with plans to deploy the technology in 100 SUVs in Sweden in 2017 – so don’t expect to see it widely deployed any time soon, although Nvidia has said that it will be widely available in the fourth quarter of 2016.

The Drive PX2 is designed to help enable self-driving cars, with the power to handle data from sensors and controls and to learn and make decisions.

The PX2 enables full autonomy so the car does not necessarily need to be connected to the outside world, which means that in areas with no connectivity you don’t have to worry that the self-driving functions will stop working.

The Nvidia CEO pointed out in his keynote that an important factor for car manufacturers will be to build their own big data platforms. These will be able to gather large amounts of data and improve over time based on learning from what the car experiences.

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With that in mind, Toyota has also been busy on the big data front. A Data Communication Module unveiled at CES 2016 supports both the creation and integration of smart technology into Toyota cars.

The module will utilise the company’s Big Data Centre in order to support connected services, which means that data-sensitive technology can be made more reliable for users.

If this is to be rolled out at scale then Toyota will need to be able to process large amounts of data and with speed.

Not much information has been given as to how exactly the company will be analysing and processing the data, although it will be handled by Toyota Big Data Centre in the company’s Smart Centre.

According to the company the centre will: "analyse and process data collected by DCM, and use it to deploy services under high-level information security and privacy controls."

Toyota isn’t alone with this strategy with Ford and others offering capabilities to deploy data services to cars through Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and LTE.

As with any developing market there are several differing opinion on which is the right path to take. Nvidia appears to be suggesting that a self-driving car requires an internal supercomputer, while car manufacturers are demonstrating a desire to offer the data analysis services themselves.

Clearly either way is designed to support the company’s business strategy, and only time will tell whether the internal data analysis will triumph over external.

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