Nvidia is betting that its new "mobile super chip" will help achieve truly self-driving cars, reflecting a new direction for the company from its traditional market in mobile devices.
The company said the new Tegra X1 will aid in the development of intelligent cars that recognize objects, signs, images, lanes and other things. Cars could also self park, and help improve driver safety.
The Tegra X1 will provide the computational horsepower required to process images based on which vehicles can see and analyze on-road situations. The chip is more of a supercomputer-in-a-car, which could understand the environment around a vehicle, be situationally aware, and take action.
Based on video and image input, the chip has been trained to recognize pedestrians, traffic lights, and cross-walk and speed limit signs to which cars can respond. Images and video go to the Tegra X1 chip, and based on contextual awareness, help the car make a decision on what to do next. For example, a car can detect, recognize, classify and apply traffic lights in relevant situations.
The Tegra X1 was unveiled by Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang at a press conference on Sunday ahead of the International CES trade show.
Tegra chips have traditionally gone into mobile devices, but Huang brushed away the use of the X1 in mobile devices. That could indicate a new focus for Tegra chips in automobiles and other markets.
Car features such as blind spot detection and parking assistance have evolved over the years with radar and ultrasound technology. But cars are getting higher resolution cameras, which can help gather images, and Tegra X1 will play a key role in processing and understanding those images, Huang said.
The new chip has 256 graphics cores, and eight 64-bit CPU cores. It delivers two times the graphics performance while consuming the same amount of power as its predecessor, the Tegra K1. The Tegra K1 was introduced exactly a year ago, and is used in Google's Nexus 9 tablet, Acer's Chromebook 13 and other products.
The graphics capabilities in Tegra X1 comes from the company's latest Maxwell architecture, which is already in laptops and desktops. The Maxwell graphics architecture can deliver two times the performance and power efficiency of the Kepler graphics architecture, which is used in the Tegra K1.
Nvidia is using two Tegra X1 chips in its new Drive PX hardware platform for the development of intelligent cars. The platform is computationally intensive and can run at 2.3 teraflops and can process information from 12 cameras simultaneously at 1.3 billion pixels per second.
Infotainment systems in cars look like "cartoons" now, Huang said, adding that the new chip will also help deliver improved navigation and entertainment systems.
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