Nvidia’s big push into the world of autonomous vehicles has attracted a vast amount of customers for what is still early stage technology — over 320, by the company’s count. This week at CES the company announced that it’s finally making Xavier, an AI chip made for self-driving vehicles that Nvidia announced in 2016, available to customers. And the company’s also adding a few marquee names to its list of self-driving technology customers, including Uber and VW.
Volkswagen announced that it will use Nvidia’s Drive IX platform in some of its upcoming vehicles, including the I.D. Buzz electric bus. Drive IX is a software developer kit that Nvidia created to tap into the power of Xavier, and Volkswagen will use it to build in features like facial recognition, gesture control, natural language processing, and more. Volkswagen will also work with Drive AR, a new augmented reality-based SDK that works off the same Nvidia technology platform.
Basically, whatever futuristic interactions you might have with your Volkswagen car are probably going to be powered by this AI architecture on the car, and without requiring help from the cloud.
Meanwhile, Uber has been using Nvidia’s self-driving technology in its autonomous test cars for a while, though the companies are only just starting to talk about it this week. Uber plans to use Nvidia’s tech in its eventual self-driving fleets of Volvos as well as the company’s autonomous trucks. But the two sides won’t say how much of Nvidia’s platform Uber is using, though, other than that the ride-hailing company is leveraging the onboard GPU for some artificial intelligence work.
Big gets in the AV arms race
Here’s the thing, though. You don’t order a combo meal just to eat the fries. What the two companies are getting at by making this announcement this week is that Uber’s at the table, and it has within arms reach all the things Nvidia is promising to offer with Xavier and Pegasus. Don’t be surprised if we hear more from these two companies soon.
Why does this matter? Nvidia is locked in a mad race with Intel across a number of different segments of the computing market, and so these companies like to boast whenever they attract major companies as customers. Uber and VW are big gets as customers when, just months ago, Intel shelled out $15 billion to acquire self-driving technology company Mobileye in an attempt to level the playing field. Nvidia announcing this on the eve of CES — and one night before Intel’s keynote address — sets up this year’s show as another venue for the two companies to trade blows. Las Vegas is known for hosting fights, after all.