Self-driving cars require not only well-developed and mature software, but powerful hardware to run it on. Self-driving cars must detect hazards, plan routes and at times learn and apply critical thinking to determine the least harmful course of action in a given situation, so it stands to reason they would need fairly powerful brains. NVIDIA has stepped up and announced just that sort of hardware, purpose-built for self-driving cars.
The Drive PX 2 Supercomputer is being touted as the "world's first supercomputer for self-driving cars". Presented by NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang, the new supercomputer boasts specs that can go blow-for-blow with just about any high-end desktop and some legitimate supercomputers. A mind-blowing 8 teraflops of power is on board, driven by 12 CPU cores made with a 16nm FinFet process and one of NVIDIA's super-powered Pascal GPU chipsets, based on the Maxwell architecture often featured in modern gaming PCs. The 250-watt liquid-cooled supercomputer promises to power the software for any self-driving car out there today and well into tomorrow with plenty of muscle to spare. Huang makes sure the impact he hopes for is known, saying that this supercomputer setup should result in not only safer driving for robotic cars, but brand new mobility services and a complete rethinking of urban infrastructure. Huang went on to speak of NVIDIA's goal for their self-driving car hardware. "Our vision is to create the computing platform by which we can achieve these goals," Huang said. "The car is paying attention all of the time. It is a virtual copilot that will keep you out of harm's way."
A release date for the lunchbox-sized supercomputer and a list of possible hardware partners were both missing in action, but it's not a big leap to assume these will be seeing the light of day, both literally and figuratively, at some point in 2016. Having pulled out of the smartphone space with a negligible presence in regards to other smart devices, mostly limited to their own line of Shield devices, NVIDIA is looking to this device to cement them as a big player in the automotive world. NVIDIA's PC graphics card business is still going strong, but their GPUs are well-suited to self-driving cars and NVIDIA seems to have locked in tight, knowing a good niche when they see one.