Nvidia to power gesture controls and self-driving tech in VW's electric Kombi
The way things are going, Nvidia stands to play a pretty big role in the future of self-driving cars. Its AI chips are already the driving force behind autonomous systems for Tesla, Audi and Toyota, and today it has added a couple more transportation powerhouses to its clientele, in the form of Volkswagen and Uber.
Volkswagen finally gave the go-ahead on the electrified Kombi van back in August, with plans to begin selling a modified production version in 2022. Dubbed the I.D. Buzz, it will start with level three self-driving capabilities, but the German automaker is hoping to achieve full autonomy by 2025.
At the heart of that, it was announced today at CES, will be Nvidia's DRIVE IX Technology. The company bills this as not just self-driving hardware and software that relies on data from internal and external sensors to navigate through traffic, but as a kind of artificially intelligent co-pilot.
This means using deep learning networks to track the head movements of the driver to detect distractions and have conversations with them using speech recognition and lip-reading. It will also allow for owners to unlock the vehicle through facial recognition and control in-car settings with their gestures. Nvidia says these kinds of capabilities will be improved through software updates over time.
"In just a few years, every new vehicle should have AI assistants for voice, gesture and facial recognition as well as augmented reality," says Nvidia founder and CEO Jensen Huang. "Working with Volkswagen, we are creating a new generation of cars that are safer, more enjoyable to ride in than anything that has come before, and accessible to everyone."
Also signing on to make use of Nvidia's AI systems is Uber, which plans to place it at the center of its self-driving car and truck fleets. Uber has been making steady progress on its autonomous vehicle aspirations, with its Otto self-driving big rig delivering 50,000 cans of Budweiser in 2016 and Volvo recently agreeing to sell it 24,000 XC90 premium SUVs. These Volvos will be purpose-built to accommodate Uber's own self-driving tech sometime between 2019 and 2021, with the XC90s used in the company's trials so far already incorporating more basic Nvidia processors.
"Developing safe, reliable autonomous vehicles requires sophisticated AI software and a high-performance GPU computing engine in the vehicle," says Eric Meyhofer, head of Uber Advanced Technologies Group. "NVIDIA is a key technology provider to Uber as we bring scalable self-driving cars and trucks to market."