Nvidia may be best known for its computer graphics cards, but its new supercomputer chip may one day be a car's brain—and in the not-too-distant future to boot.
The company revealed its latest artificial intelligence computer called Pegasus, and the company developed it with Level-5 self-driving cars in mind. The scale of autonomy ranges from Level 1—a car handles some basic controls such as throttle—to Level 5 where a car handles every single function equal to that of a human driver. Most of today's "self-driving" systems fall in the Level 2 range, where drivers must still take control of the vehicle the vast majority of the time.
Nvidia's new supercomputer can handle more than 320 trillion operations per second and a terabyte of bandwidth each and every second, according to Automotive News (subscription required). It works in concert with four processors and connections are present for 16 high-speed sensors. Right now, if an automaker were to build a Level-5 self-driving car, the amount of processing power would extend to a trunk-full of equipment; Nvidia says Pegasus cuts that amount down to the size of a license plate.
Part of the problem with Level-5 self-driving cars is the number of fail-safes needed to ensure an autonomous car never completely shuts down or loses control. Again, Nvidia says its Pegasus supercomputer can handle 50 to 100 times more computational power to create and bake in the numerous fail-safes.
Automakers will gain access to Pegasus in late 2018, but Nvidia also announced it will partner with Deutsche Post DHL and ZF to test self-driving delivery vehicles that same year.