In the land of the midnight sun, the AI lights beamed brightly Tuesday night in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Some 300 startup founders, researchers and tech execs crammed into a 19th century red-brick hall in a hipster corner of Sweden’s second-largest city to mark the approach of Midsummer’s Eve, the longest day of the year.
Earlier in the day, NVIDIA founder and CEO Jensen Huang joined Volvo Group CEO Martin Lundstedt to announce that the companies had signed the most far-reaching tech pact inked in the trucking industry.
The world’s second-largest truck maker – which manufactures under the Mack, Renault, UD and Volvo flags – announced it will use NVIDIA AI technology to create self-driving vehicles for a wide range of industries, among them: public transport, freight, refuse collection, construction, mining and forestry.
Speaking to an evening crowd that trailed up pine-planked stairwells to a balcony rimmed with symmetrical arches, Huang praised Sweden’s commitment to driving forward AI, which he called the most important technology force of our lifetimes.
“The number of researchers and AI startups in Sweden, per capita, is just off the charts,” Huang said. “This is a market that’s punching far above its weight.”
Joining Huang in addressing the crowd were leading lights of where Sweden’s formidable transportation sector intersects with tech.
“Where do we see AI applied? The short answer is everywhere in our businesses,” said Henrik Färnstrand, vice president of Volvo Group vehicle automation. “For us, AI isn’t an incremental step, it’s a major leap.”
And Henrik Green, chief technology officer of Volvo Cars, described his company’s commitment to use AI to further its byword of safety. He set out its vision of having a core car computer, powered by NVIDIA, that delivers both advanced infotainment and self-driving capabilities.
Some hours previously, Huang, speaking at Volvo Group’s annual investor day, noted that transportation is in the process of becoming a technology industry that’s software defined. “AI is the most powerful force the industry has ever known. For the first time, we can imagine supplying this technology for something that wasn’t possible before, the automation of transportation,” he said.
Back at the AI evening celebration, Christian Guttmann, a professor at the nation’s famed Karolinska Institute, described a series of breakthroughs in AI-related healthcare across the Nordic region.
After a high-level tour of NVIDIA’s 200-person research department by chief scientist Bill Dally, Huang returned to the stage holding aloft a glass of schnapps, the classic drink at the country’s much-loved midsummer celebrations, which begin later this week and spill across the weekend.
In his bravest effort at Swedish, Huang broke into a traditional drinking song shared amid the extended outdoor meals that accompany the longest evenings of the year. When he began to falter, the full crowd quickly picked up the melody and sang the CEO off stage.