Nvidia Gets Into the Car Business

Douglas A. McIntyre

Chip maker Nvidia Corp. (NASDAQ: NVDA) has set deals that get it into businesses that it claims are the future of the driving industry. It picked two prominent partners as it made announcements about the plans at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). It is still too early to say whether the features will get broad adoption. It is also worth noting that companies sometimes make breathless announcements at CES to dazzle the huge audiences of technofiles, mostly from corporations, who attend.

The first deal is with Volkswagen. Nvidia calls it an artificial intelligence co-pilot. The tech company’s management announced:

Volkswagen and NVIDIA today shared their vision for how AI and deep learning will shape the development of a new generation of intelligent Volkswagen vehicles using the NVIDIA DRIVE™ IX platform to create new cockpit experiences and improve safety.

At the kickoff of CES 2018, Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess and NVIDIA founder and CEO Jensen Huang discussed on stage how AI is transforming the auto industry and highlighted the new I.D. Buzz, Volkswagen’s exciting rebirth of the iconic VW MicroBus, reimagined in electric car form and infused with AI technology for the cockpit and self-driving.


The NVIDIA DRIVE IX Intelligent Experience platform is a software development kit for creating AI-enabled applications such as facial recognition for automatically unlocking and opening the vehicle, surround perception to alert the driver to potential hazards, gesture recognition for user controls, natural language understanding for flawless voice control, and gaze tracking for driver distraction alerts.

Facial recognition already has reached the mainstream, primarily via a feature that uses the technology to unlock the Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhone X. Inc.’s (NASDAQ: AMZN) Alexa-powered home devices use a sort of “voice control.” So, the two companies have married features many consumers already use.

The second announcement Nvidia made was with Uber. Nvidia management said:

NVIDIA and Uber today announced that the ridesharing company has selected NVIDIA technology for the AI computing system in its fleet of self-driving vehicles.

Speaking at the opening press conference of CES 2018, NVIDIA founder and CEO Jensen Huang said that the collaboration utilizes NVIDIA technology for Uber Advanced Technologies Group’s fleets of self-driving cars and freight trucks, running AI algorithms that enable vehicles to perceive the world, predict what will happen next and quickly choose the best course of action, even in complex environments.

The features that tell drivers “what will happen next” do not have a home in current consumer electric devices, so adoption is harder to predict.

As is the case with many of these new technologies, while fascinating, they may not find any mainstream use. Product introductions at CES often skip this step.