Nvidia & Baidu go driverless together
Nvidia’s GPUs power infotainment systems for many automakers and more recently power the aspirations of autonomous car maker’s like Tesla, Honda, Volkswagen, and BMW as well.
For its part, Baidu, the Chinese search giant, has set up shop to build its own self-driving car right in the heart of Google’s self-driving turf in Silicon Valley. “The team will be part of Baidu’s newly-created Autonomous Driving Unit (ADU). Baidu plans to grow the team to over 100 researchers and engineers by the end of the year .”
“Baidu’s Silicon Valley car team will play a significant role in building the car of the future,” said Jing Wang, general manager of Baidu’s Autonomous Driving Unit. “Baidu is fully committed to making self-driving cars a reality.” The search giant sees a target date of 2018 for what it’s calling a “commercially viable car”.
Over in Santa Clara, Nvidia is showing off its new Drive PX 2 system, which will be the brainpower for autonomous vehicles. Drive PX2 features 12 different cores representing 8 teraflops of calculation power, 24 deep learning tera operations per second.
Nvidia co-founder and CEO Jen-Hsun Huang claims that PX 2 is as powerful as 150 MacBook Pros, adding that all that fire power equals 24 trillion operations a second. That’s trillion with a “t”.
All of which means for guiding autonomous vehicles that the Drive PX 2 system, “can fuse data from 12 cameras, as well as lidar, radar, and ultrasonic sensors,” allowing algorithms to manipulate the data to accurately understand the full 360 degree environment around the car.
On September 1st, the couple made their relationship a bit more formal: “Nvidia’s Huang “revealed a new partnership on stage at Baidu’s annual Baidu World conference today. This partnership with Baidu will see Nvidia and the Chinese tech giant work together on building a comprehensive autonomous driving platform.
Huang furthered, “We’re going to bring together the technical capabilities, our expertise in AI, and the skills of two world-class companies…and by combining “these capabilities, we will be able to deliver a cloud-to-car architecture platform that promises to get cars on the road in the next several years.”
Uber gets together with Volvo…and Pittsburgh
Several weeks earlier, Uber and Volvo announced their intentions by pledging to contribute $300 million in a deal that would see Volvo (sold by Ford to China’s Geely Holding in 2010) co-develop self-driving cars. First test would be to make 100 of Volvo’s newest semi-autonomous vehicles available to its Pittsburgh customers by the end of August.
Just to be on the safe side on the streets of Pittsburgh, a specially trained Uber staff member will ride along as a human co-pilot. “If we were putting this in terms of a tightrope walk, there would definitely be a net,” says Bryant Walker Smith, an assistant professor at the University of South Carolina who monitors law and policy developments in autonomous technology. Technically, this is not a car without a human safety net.
Uber has 1.5 million drivers worldwide, 600,000 in the U.S.
According to Recode: “The partnership isn’t exclusive. Uber is also working with Toyota and can pursue additional automotive partnerships-but it also stipulates that Uber will buy Volvo’s base vehicles, which the ride-hail company can retrofit with its own autonomous technology. Uber won’t specify exactly how many self-driving cars will hit the streets.”
What do the experts think of all this?
Raj Rajkumar, an engineer at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, says, “We are at least 10 years away from technology being reliable enough to replace humans.”
Steve Shladover, an engineering professor at the University of California, Berkeley, puts it at 60 years.
Andrew Ng, a leader at the Chinese tech giant Baidu, is far more optimistic. He says there will be cars that need no human hand-holding by 2018. See above: “commercially viable car”.
BTW: Baidu has just partnered with Ford to work on autonomous tech.