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Nvidia expands its automotive influence

Tom Geggus | 13 Apr 2021

About the author

Tom Geggus

Journalist

As a journalist for Autovista Group's Daily Brief, Tom covers a wide variety of stories from across the automotive industry. From sales figures to the development of technology, he wants to know what is driving the industry.

The automotive industry is undergoing a monumental period of change. Megatrends like digitisation, sustainability, and electromobility are transforming how a car is designed, built and powered. This means suppliers are also changing as carmakers require more advanced and specialist know-how.

A primary example is the accelerated computing company Nvidia, which first made its name at the turn of the century in the PC-gaming market. Now it is working with Volvo Cars, Zoox and SAIC on the next generation of AI-based autonomous vehicles. Its Omniverse platform is even being used by BMW Group to plan complex manufacturing systems. As Jensen Huang, founder and CEO of Nvidia, said: ‘Transportation is becoming a technology industry.’

254 trillion operations per second 

Volvo, Zoox and SAIC have joined the growing number of transportation companies using the latest Nvidia Drive system. The tech company’s pipeline for the system now totals more than $8 billion (€6.7 billion) over the next six years, which it says reflects the growing range of next-generation vehicles.

‘Besides having amazing autonomous driving and AI technologies, vehicles will be programmable platforms to offer software-driven services. The business models of transportation will be reinvented,’ Huang said. ‘Our design wins demonstrate how Nvidia is partnering with one of the world’s largest and most impactful industries to help revolutionise the future of mobility.’

Volvo will expand its collaboration with the company to use its Nvidia Drive Orin system-on-a-chip (SoC) technology. This will work with software developed in-house by the carmaker and its own software company Zenseact, to power autonomous-driving systems in its next-generation models. The SoC is capable of carrying out 254 tera (or 254 trillion) operations per second (TOPS), which will be essential given the enormous amount of computing power needed for autonomous driving.

Volvo will deploy Orin based on its SPA2 modular vehicle architecture, with the upcoming XC90 front-lining what the SoC can do. The carmaker’s new platform will be available as hardware-ready for autonomy from the beginning of production. Highway Pilot, Volvo’s ‘unsupervised autonomous driving feature,’ will be activated when verified as safe for individual geographic locations and conditions.

‘We believe in partnering with the world’s leading technology firms to build the best Volvos possible,’ said Henrik Green, chief technology officer. ‘With the help of Nvidia Drive Orin technology, we can take safety to the next level on our next generation of cars.’

Robotaxis and EVs

Robotaxi company Zoox is also developing with the help of Nvidia’s technology. The ‘mobility-as-a-service’ (MaaS) provider recently unveiled its Nvidia Drive-powered, purpose-built, bi-directional robotaxi designed for urban areas.

Chinese MaaS provider, Didi, also announced it is adopting Nvidia Drive for its entire autonomous driving test fleet. These two companies will join the ranks of other robotaxi builders already developing on these advanced systems, including Pony.ai and Auto X.

An increasing number of new companies will also use Nvidia Drive Orin to build software-defined vehicles, including Chinese carmaker, SAIC. Its R Auto family will feature the R-Tech advanced intelligent assistant, powered by Orin to run perception, sensor fusion and prediction for automated driving features in real-time. Its premium IM brand will deliver long-range electrically-chargeable vehicles (EVs) with help from the system. This line-up will include a sedan and an SUV with autonomous parking and other automated-driving features.

Virtual factory planning

Nvidia is also working with BMW to create a new approach to planning manufacturing systems with its Omniverse platform. This virtual factory mapping tool integrates planning data and applications, allowing for real-time collaboration.

‘Together we are about to make a huge leap forward and open up completely new perspectives in the field of virtual, digital planning,’ said Milan Nedeljković, BMW board member for production. ‘In the future, a virtual representation of our production network will allow us to realise an innovative, integrated approach to our planning processes. Omniverse greatly enhances the precision, speed and, consequently, the efficiency of our planning processes.’

While virtual factory planning is nothing new, it does require the import of data from various applications. This can be time-consuming as well as complicated owing to compatibility issues. In future, the platform will allow live data to be collected and collated from all databases to create a joint simulation. A new level of transparency will enable teams to plan complex systems with greater speed and accuracy.

Developers at BMW will be able to visualise the entire planning lifecycle for every plant in the global production network. This will be supported by a wide range of AI-capable applications, from autonomous robotics to predictive maintenance and data analysis.

‘I am delighted that BMW is using Nvidia Omniverse to connect their teams to design, plan and operate their future factories virtually before anything is built in the physical world,’ said Huang. ‘This is the future of manufacturing.’

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