Pace Setter: Audi to Use Tegra X1, Accelerating Drive to Self-Piloted Cars

by Bob Sherbin

The race to develop self-driving cars just accelerated.

Two days after NVIDIA Tegra X1’s official launch, Audi confirmed today that it will use the new mobile superchip in developing its future automotive self-piloting capabilities.

Speaking to a packed crowd in its gleaming white, futuristic booth at the Consumer Electronics Show, Audi execs said they’ll use Tegra X1 to build on their current work with its predecessor, Tegra K1, to supply the intelligence needed to help achieve the dream of a self-driven car.

Key to their enthusiasm is Tegra X1’s machine learning capabilities, which enable the car to teach itself based on its ability to sense, recognize and classify objects on the road.

Audi Ricky Hudi CES 2015
Smarter cars: Audi EVP Ricky Hudi told CES attendees the carmaker will use NVIDIA Tegra X1 for developing its future self-piloting capabilities.

“With every mile it drives, every hour, the car will learn more and more,” said Ricky Hudi, the carmaker’s executive vice president for electrics/electronics development.

To hoots of appreciation, Audi showed off how a driverless car could be instantly summoned with the quick touch of a smart watch.

Earlier this week, the carmaker captured headlines when a self-piloted Audi A7 flawlessly completed the 500+ mile drive on highways from Silicon Valley to the show in Las Vegas — passing slower cars and safely changing lanes along the way.

The company sees these advancements as heralding the dawn of a new era of piloted driving. And in less than two years, the era will be fully upon us, starting with self-piloted capabilities on its flagship A8 luxury sedan, Hudi later told the press.

“We’re very close to reality,” he said. “We’re not demonstrating a vision. We’re demonstrating what will be reality.”

Audi’s confident these features will be eagerly greeted. Research indicates that one-third to one-half of those who buy luxury cars would choose self-driving features. From there, they’ll come to be seen as key mainstream safety offerings.

“We’ll start with premium cars and the next step would be democratization of it in volume models,” said Ulrich Hackenberg, Audi’s R&D chief. “You can’t offer safety only for premium customers, you have to give it to everyone.”

Audi A7 self drive
Meet me in Vegas: A self-piloted Audi A7 drove 500+ miles from Silicon Valley to the CES show in Las Vegas.

Audi, a close partner of NVIDIA’s for nearly a decade, is the first major publicly announced  customer of Tegra X1, which has been described by the press and analysts as “mind blowing” and “a veritable beast” for its incredible performance.

It packs more than one teraflops of computing power in a chip the size of a thumbnail. With as much processing power as in the world’s most powerful supercomputer from just 15 years ago, the chip is based on our new hyper-efficient Maxwell architecture and draws only about 10 watts of power.

Two Tegra X1 processors are the heart of our newly revealed NVIDIA DRIVE PX auto-pilot car computer, which can handle video inputs from up to 12 onboard cameras to provide a seamless 360-degree view around the car and true self-parking.

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