NVIDIA, Baidu, and ZF announced a self-driving platform for China as part of the Santa Clara-based company's Consumer Electronics Show conference held Sunday, adding that their solution is meant to be the first production-ready product of its kind. The project will incorporate ZF-made ProAI computer and the NVIDIA DRIVE Xavier chip, as well as Baidu's experimental technology developed by the tech giant's Apollo program. The overall contributions are understood to be relatively equal on all sides and will combine general artificial intelligence solutions with various related technologies meant to power the first commercially available autonomous vehicles in the Far Eastern country. Besides entirely autonomous, Level 5-grade applications, the collaboration is also meant to support semi-automated vehicles, starting from the Level 2 category. A detailed roadmap has yet to be attached to the project but first cars using the platform are expected to be commercialized in China two years from now, the companies said.
The NVIDIA DRIVE Xavier is an upcoming system-on-chip designed specifically for self-driving applications. The company claims its silicon can perform 30 trillions of deep learning operations every second in an extremely energy-efficient manner, requiring only 30W to run. Such a combination of raw processing power and conservative energy use is said to make it a top candidate for consumer-ready autonomous driving solutions, with NVIDIA also being quick to boast about its other features such as a wide variety of supported connectors meant to make the chip more versatile in regards to third-party sensor compatibility. The DRIVE Xavier will form the core of the driverless platform that's currently in development and will also become available to other manufacturers in the coming weeks, being set for a release in the current quarter of the year.
While far from the first initiative of its kind, the collaboration announced by the trio of tech companies in the run-up to CES 2018 is arguably the most ambitious such effort in the industry in the context of China. According to NVIDIA, nearly a third of the world's passenger market is in China, making the country an apt ground for pioneering transportation solutions. The announcement also marks yet another step in NVIDIA's plan to diversify its operations while still keeping in touch with its GPU roots.