German car parts manufacturer ZF and US-based semiconductor company NVIDIA have announced a new partnership at CES 2017 in Las Vegas, leading to the creation of the ZF ProAI artificial intelligence system for autonomous cars including passenger cars and commercial trucks, as well as industrial applications. The ZF ProAI is described as a system for highway automated driving and it is the German automotive company’s first autonomous system to take advantage of NVIDIA's AI technology.
Specifically, the ZF ProAI uses NVIDIA’s scalable liquid-cooled DRIVE PX 2 AI platform introduced by the chipmaker last year, featuring 12 CPU cores built on a 16nm FinFET node and a graphics processing unit based on Pascal architecture. According to ZF CEO Dr. Stefan Sommer, the system will enable driverless cars “to see, think and act”, as it will make use of the NVIDIA DRIVE PX 2 AI platform to gather information from multiple cameras, plus lidar, radar, and ultrasonic sensors. The company claims that the ZF ProAI will be able to “understand in real time what is happening around a vehicle”, which is a key element in creating an autonomous system that would work in the real world. As the official press release states: “current electronic control units in cars consist of numerous processors […] however, their computing power is not currently sufficient for autonomous driving.” In other words, today’s silicon may be fast, but conventional computing systems lack contextual awareness and needless to say, the NVIDIA DRIVE PX 2 and its slew of smart sensors have been designed to fill this gap.
Vice President and General Manager of Automotive at NVIDIA stated that “transportation is a massive industry that AI can transform” and ZF head of Advanced Engineering, Torsen Gollwski, added that the company sees NVIDIA’s deep learning platform as their foundation for creating future AI-capable software. The company wants to make the ZF ProAI platform available to third parties as well, and intends to push the system into series production in the year 2018 and onwards. The official press release also states that the ZF ProAI will “meet automotive-grade standards” to ensure that it can function even when exposed to harsh environmental conditions such as extreme temperatures, dust, and moisture.