Chip manufacturer Nvidia expects cars to become increasingly dependent on computer chips as they try and learn how to “see” on our roads.
Companies like Google and BMW are already developing cars that can navigate our roads for themselves, without the need for a driver. These autonomous vehicles are typically fitted with a number of cameras but how does the car determine what the cameras are showing it? The answer: image recognition technology.
That’s where Nvidia comes in, according to Jaap Zulderveld, Nvidia’s VP for Europe. By using deep learning (a form of machine learning, which is a type of AI) Nvidia’s GPUs (graphics processing units) can help cars to understand what their cameras are seeing.
“We will play a role when it comes to autonomous driving,” said Zulderveld during a phone interview with Business Insider on Tuesday. “We can help the car’s cameras to identify what they’re looking at.”
Image recognition technology is complicated, Zulderveld continued, adding that there are two approaches to it.
The first is to write code for every possible scenario and get the chip to determine the outcome of taking every possible action within every possible setting. That’s practically impossible, he claims, adding that it would take an incomprehensible amount of code.
The second approach is to “programme in a way where the car starts to learn itself what it does and doesn’t do,” said Zulderveld.
Most famously used in desktop PCs, Nvidia’s chips are actually already in millions of cars — from Audis and Porsches to Bentleys and Hondas. They tend to be used to support infotainment systems and satellite navigation but Nvidia’s technology has the potential to do much more than that, according to Zulderveld.
Volvo has put Nvidia’s Drive PX 2, Nvidia’s deep-learning based self-driving platform, into a number of XC090 test vehicles that are being used in the company’s Drive Me development program, which was announced earlier this year.
The programme has already put real drivers behind the wheels of self-driving cars on the roads of Gothenburg. Volvo is also looking to trial these self-driving cars in London next year.
It’s not entirely clear when autonomous cars will be commonplace on our roads but it’s likely that we’ll start seeing an increasing number within the next few decades.
“I think the premium cars will have the first
capabilities as it will be an extended technology,” said Zulderveld. “ABS and airbag were only in top models at first. I think that’s what’s going to happen with this technology also.”
Nvidia’s stock price has jumped from around $20 (£14) to $40 (£27) on the Nasdaq market this year as the company has made deeper pushes into automotive.