As an automotive enthusiast, I get excited by new technologies applied to cars. You can attribute that to a childhood dominated by evenings watching Knight Rider.
Thankfully, the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) always delivers, and NVIDIA is the first to present new tech that promises to revolutionize the automotive world.
NVIDIA’s CES 2015 keynote announced the company’s NVIDIA DRIVE automotive computer technology. Composed of two major components, DRIVE CX and DRIVE PX, NVIDIA DRIVE aims to leverage the company’s technologies and apply them to cars. As company president Jen-Hsun Huang says, “NVIDIA DRIVE will accelerate the intelligent car revolution by putting the visual computing capabilities of supercomputers at the service of each driver.”
NVIDIA’s DRIVE CX Computer
DRIVE CX is basically the heart of the automotive industry’s most technologically-advanced visual platform. With the enhanced visuals offered by DRIVE CX, the driver will feel more integrated with his car. Essential functions such as vehicle speed, engine RPMs, and real-time diagnostics will be displayed on NVIDIA-powered digital speedometers, tachometers, and other methods of relaying visual information. As beautiful as jewelry, but far more functional, this is the kind of bling automotive enthusiasts typically go ga-ga over. But DRIVE CX is not just an advance because of its use of supercomputer technology to make cockpit displays more eye-catching; it aims to improve the interaction between driver and car. The delivery of salient information in a visually-effective method in real-time goes a long way towards achieving that, I would say.
In addition to information delivery, DRIVE CX is also capable of being integrated into a system of cameras embedded into the vehicle, providing the driver with a real-time 360° view. This will avoid the problem of blind spots and should enhance safety on the roads.
But as impressive as DRIVE CX is, DRIVE PX is even more so. DRIVE PX is, essentially, the gateway towards truly autonomous automobiles. Using a pair of the company’s Tegra X1 mobile super chip, DRIVE PX will enable cars to drive themselves. NVIDIA showed simulations of its new DRIVE PX technology applied to a real-world scenario: A driver-less vehicle navigated its way around a simulated rendering of a portion of NVIDIA’s parking facility in Santa Clara, avoiding all obstacles, and parking into an open spot. Using a system of inter-connected cameras and its Tegra X1s, the DRIVE PX-equipped simulated vehicle drove around the parking facility even better than some human drivers I’ve seen. Not only that, but DRIVE PX should also be capable of allowing the car to drive back to its waiting driver.
NVIDIA’s DRIVE PX Computer
But there’s more to DRIVE PX than just driving the vehicle. NVIDIA says that DRIVE PX is capable of deep learning, so in time a DRIVE PX-based system will be able to recognize various vehicle types. This is useful, of course, in that a self-guided vehicle will be able to behave correctly given certain emergency scenarios. It will be able to tell a police car from a family sedan, or an ambulance from a delivery van. Therefore, it will be able to move the car out-of-the-way to give these emergency response vehicles the right-of-way as required in the traffic code. NVIDIA claims the system is smart enough to even be able to detect and react to even subtle nuanced situations – like differentiating a parked car from one about to merge into traffic – the way a human driver can.
Knight Rider technology, it looks like, is finally here.