NVIDIA Takes AI From Research to Production in New Work with Volvo, VW, ZF, Autoliv, HELLA  

by Danny Shapiro

Furthering its growth in the European automotive market, NVIDIA today unveiled a series of collaborations with five of the continent’s key players to move AI technology into production.

Speaking at the Automobil Elektronik Congress, an annual gathering outside Stuttgart focused on Europe’s auto industry, NVIDIA founder and CEO Jensen Huang described AI-based deep learning technology as “spectacular” for autonomous driving.

He unveiled new partnerships and collaborations for NVIDIA, which underscore the company’s growing headway in the $10 trillion transportation market. They include:

“There’s no industry that’s being revolutionized like this one and our contributions to it are significant,” Jensen told more than 500 auto execs in his half-hour keynote.

He described NVIDIA’s car-to-data-center computing model for NVIDIA DRIVE – by which a vehicle senses its surroundings, determines its precision position on a highly detailed map and plans a safe path forward. Complementing his talk were presentations during the conference referring to the path to autonomous driving by members of NVIDIA’s autonomous vehicle ecosystem, including: Bosch, VW, HELLA and Audi, among others.

Huang explained that the heart of NVIDIA’s autonomous technology is NVIDIA DRIVE PX, an exceptionally powerful AI car computing platform that draws just 30 watts of power, enabling it to power Level 4 autonomous capability in which a car can essentially drive itself.

NVIDIA’s latest announcements build on existing collaborations with Europe’s Audi and Mercedes, as well as Toyota and Tesla Motors.

Volvo Cars and Autoliv Collaboration

Volvo Cars and Autoliv – together with Zenuity, an auto software joint venture equally owned by the two companies – will work with NVIDIA to develop next-generation self-driving car technologies built on the NVIDIA DRIVE PX car computing platform.

The agreement builds on a collaboration unveiled 18 months ago when the Swedish carmaker – known for its focus on safety – said it would use NVIDIA DRIVE PX for the pilot test of its DRIVE ME program involving 100 self-driving Volvo SUVs in its hometown of Gothenberg, and soon expanding into new test programs in the U.K. and China.

“Artificial intelligence is the essential tool for solving the incredibly demanding challenge of autonomous driving,” Huang said. “We are building on our earlier collaboration with Volvo to create production vehicles that will make driving safer, lead to greener cities and reduce congestion on our roads.”

Volvo President and CEO Hakan Samuelsson said in a published comment: “Our cooperation with NVIDIA places Volvo Cars, Autoliv and Zenuity at the forefront of the fast-moving market to develop next-generation autonomous driving capabilities and will speed up the development of Volvo’s own commercially available autonomous drive cars.”

And Autoliv CEO Jan Carlson said: “With NVIDIA, we now have full access to the leading AI computing platform for autonomous driving. Autoliv, Volvo Cars and NVIDIA share the same vision for safe, autonomous driving. This cooperation will further advance our leading ADAS and autonomous driving offerings to the market.”

ZF-HELLA Partnership

ZF, one of the industry’s largest automotive suppliers, and HELLA, a leading tier 1 supplier of camera perception software and sensor technologies, will provide customers with a complete self-driving system that integrates front camera units, as well as supporting software functions and radar systems.

Using the NVIDIA DRIVE PX AI platform, the partnership aims to produce the highest NCAP safety ratings for passenger cars, while also addressing commercial vehicle and off-highway applications. NVIDIA DRIVE PX offers both NCAP driver assistance and self-driving capabilities on a single platform ready for production.

NVIDIA DRIVE PX will enable ZF and HELLA to develop software for scalable systems starting from modern driver assistance systems that connect their advanced imaging and radar sensor technologies for autonomous driving functionality.

“Creating a self-driving car is one of society’s most important endeavors – and one of the most challenging to deliver,” Huang said. “Our work with ZF and HELLA will bring AI self-driving solutions that include NCAP safety for millions of cars worldwide.”

ZF CEO Stefan Sommer said: “We are building up a powerful ecosystem step by step. Earlier this year ZF became the first supplier to adopt NVIDIA AI technology for cars and commercial vehicles in the ZF ProAI box. Just a few days ago HELLA and ZF joined forces in a non-exclusive partnership, and now together we are partnering with NVIDIA to make our roads safer and to support the development of autonomous driving functions.”

And HELLA CEO Rolf Breidenbach, who spoke before Jensen, said: “Combining our expertise in front camera perception software and radar sensor technologies with NVIDIA’s expertise in deep learning hardware and software will drive technological developments for broad adoption of self-driving capabilities across many transportation segments.”

Volkswagen Group Partnership

Earlier in the day, VW announced a partnership with NVIDIA to develop advanced AI systems based on deep learning that could be used for a variety of applications and in the field of mobility services.

Examples it cited are developing new procedures for optimizing traffic flow in cities and tasks involving humans working together with robots.

“Artificial intelligence is the key to the digital future of the Volkswagen Group,” Martin Hofmann, CIO of Volkswagen Group, said. “We want to develop and deploy high-performance AI systems ourselves. This is why we are expanding our expert knowledge required. Cooperation with NVIDIA will be a major step in this direction.”

VW also said it would work with NVIDIA to establish a startup support program that will provide technical and financial support for international startups developing machine learning and deep learning for the auto industry.

The companies additionally will launch a training initiative for high-performing students to learn to program for AI initiatives working with NVIDIA’s Deep Learning Institute.

These are just the latest example of how the road to mass adoption of autonomous vehicles seems to be getting shorter every day.