LAS VEGAS – We haven’t quite reached the age of self-driving cars being the norm, but Nvidia might have just figured out a way to get us there faster. The company just took the wraps off Drive Xavier: an incredibly powerful system-on-a-chip (SoC) meant to power the next generation of autonomous vehicles.
Drive Xavier combines all of Nvidia’s specialties into a single chip, marrying the sheer power of the company’s graphics processors with the deep learning AI capabilities that the company has been working on for years. It’s being billed as the “most complex SoC ever made,” since it needs to be powerful and smart enough to control your vehicle — and avoid hazards — completely on its own.
Xavier’s specs include 9 billion transistors, a custom version of the company’s powerful Volta GPU and a whole bunch of other complex numbers that make Xavier the biggest chip of its kind.
But Xavier is just one piece of the puzzle. The processor will power Nvidia’s Drive AV software, which includes everything a vehicle needs to work autonomously. That includes the ability to automatically open your trunk as you walk up with your hands full of bags, alert you to a nearby speeding cyclist or take the wheel when it senses that you're drowsy.
Perhaps the biggest tool in Nvidia's arsenal is Drive AR: an augmented reality navigation system that can map your environment and highlight potential dangers. In a concept video shown at CES 2018, Nvidia showed Drive AR providing a virtual view of real roads right on your dashboard, complete with blue arrows for where you should be driving and red outlines around nearby vehicles. The software can also show points of interest, making it easy to find nearby restaurants and landmarks, for example.
Nvidia is already working with a multitude of partners on Drive Xavier and Drive AV, including a partnership with Uber that could eventually lead to self-driving ride-share vehicles. Nvidia also revealed a special partnership with Volkswagen, which aims to bring Nvidia's more advanced AI features to the car company's vehicles.