by Noah Kravitz

Last year NVIDIA set foot in the land of cars, announcing a partnership with Audi to explore the use of visual computing technologies in future vehicles. Today NVIDIA plants its flag in the automotive landscape, announcing groundbreaking new partnerships with two carmakers at the forefront of the industry: BMW and Tesla Motors.

Visual Computing and the Ultimate Driving Machine

In partnership with BMW of North America, NVIDIA today announced that “The Ultimate Driving Machine” now features the power of Visual Computing: NVIDIA GPUs will power the in-car navigation and information systems across the entire line of next-gen BMW cars worldwide. From Mini Coopers to 7-Series, all BMWs will get NVIDIA-powered versions of iDrive, BMWs navigation and vehicle-information system.  The systems will feature 1280 x 600 hi-res displays to show off next-gen user interfaces.

BMW exec Elmar Frickenstein said of the new partnership, “A year ago we had a vision to deliver the most advanced intuitive state-of-the-art navigation system. In our quest for superior graphics performance, no one came close to what NVIDIA brings to the table.”

CES goers can get hands on experience with a next gen navigation concept in a new BMW 550i, fresh out of BMW labs, with the very latest NVIDIA graphics technologies at NVIDIA’s outdoor exhibit, located at Central Plaza booth #CP7.

Wait, wait … there’s more!

NVIDIA also announced a partnership that’s got me, personally, in a tizzy: The forthcoming Tesla Motors Model S electric sedan will sport NVIDIA Tegra powered infotainment, navigation, and instrument-cluster systems including a 17” touch-screen center console, the largest display ever in a car. The display will power the car’s connected navigation and climate-control systems, and Tegra will also power the 12.3” LCD display that serves as the Model S’ 3D digital instrument cluster.

Given Tesla Motors’ focus on energy efficiency, the folks at NVIDIA are awfully proud they were chosen to power a high-performance visual computing system that has no choice but to be miserly when it comes to using power. Given the sexy curves of the Model S, I don’t blame NVIDIA brass for blowing their own horns about this one. NVIDIA Senior VP Dan Vivoli seems pretty psyched about the Tesla deal, saying, “The Model S is a modern marvel – a blend of beauty, performance and efficiency.  Tegra’s combination of graphics power and energy efficiency make it a perfect match for the Model S.”

A Model S will be on display next to the BMW 550i at NVIDIA’s outdoor booth. This is likely also a pretty good place to look for me, in case you were wondering.