Nvidia dives into a new business segment with Drive AutoPilot

Nvidia’s automotive ambitions seemed targeted solely on creating a platform to enable fully autonomous vehicles, notably the robotaxis that so many companies hope to deploy in the coming decade. It turns out that Nvidia has also been working a more near-term product that opens it up to a different segment in the automotive industry. The […]

Nvidia’s automotive ambitions seemed targeted solely on creating a platform to enable fully autonomous vehicles, notably the robotaxis that so many companies hope to deploy in the coming decade.

It turns out that Nvidia has also been working a more near-term product that opens it up to a different segment in the automotive industry. The company announced Monday at CES 2019 that it has launched Nvidia Drive AutoPilot, a reference platform that automakers can use to bring more sophisticated automated driving features into their production vehicles. This is not a self-driving car product, although it will likely be misinterpreted as such.

The Drive AutoPilot system is meant to make those advanced driver assistance system in today’s cars even better. It enables highway merging, lane changes, lane splits, pedestrian and cyclist detection, parking assist, and personal mapping as well as in-cabin features like driver monitoring, AI copilot capabilities, and advanced in-cabin visualization of the vehicle’s computer vision system. It also allows for over-the-air software updates, a capability that automakers, with the exception of Tesla, have been slow to adopt.

Nvidia already has two customers for Nvidia Drive AutoPilot — a name not to be confused with Tesla’s consumer-facing semi-autonomous system Autopilot. (It should be noted that a Tesla uses a derivative of Nvidia’s Drive platform, although that could change. Tesla has been developing its own chip, otherwise known as “Hardware 3.”

On Monday, Tier 1 suppliers Continental and ZF announced that by 2020 they will have partially automated driving systems ready for production that are based on the Drive AutoPilot platform.

Nvidia argues that there’s a market for this improved automation, noting a recent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study that found existing Level 2 ADAS systems “offer inconsistent vehicle detections and poor ability to stay within lanes on curvy or hilly roads, resulting in a high occurrence of system disengagements where the driver abruptly had to take control.” Level 2 is a designation from SAE that means the vehicle’s automated system can handle accelerating, braking and steering, but must still be monitored by the driver, who should be prepared to take control at any time.

Nvidia doesn’t make plug-and-play type systems. Instead, Continental, ZF or other suppliers can take this reference platformand use it to deliver any combination of more advanced automation. For example, Continental will use it to produce an automated driving and parking solution that will be available to customers by 2020.

The foundation of the Drive AutoPilot is Nvidia’s Xavier system-on-a-chip processor, which can handle some 30 trillion operations per second. Then it adds Nvidia’s Drive software to process deep neural networks for perception as well as data pouring in from surround camera sensors.

The Drive AutoPilot system is part of Nvidia’s broader Drive platform. It’s also designed to complement the company’s Nvidia Drive AGX Pegasus system that provides Level 5 capabilities for robotaxis.

 

“A full-featured, Level 2+ system requires significantly more computational horsepower and sophisticated software than what is on the road today,” Rob Csongor, vice president of Autonomous Machines at Nvidia said, adding that the company’s system makes it possible for carmakers to quickly deploy advanced autonomous solutions by 2020 and to scale this solution to higher levels of autonomy faster.

Southeast Asia’s Grab plans electric vehicle push

Grab, the ride-hailing company that consumed Uber’s business in Southeast Asia, today made a big push to grow the number of electric vehicles in its fleet after it partnered with energy supplier Singapore Power. The deal will see Grab add 200 new ‘fast-charging’ EVs to its fleet in Singapore with SP providing “preferential” pricing at the […]

Grab, the ride-hailing company that consumed Uber’s business in Southeast Asia, today made a big push to grow the number of electric vehicles in its fleet after it partnered with energy supplier Singapore Power.

The deal will see Grab add 200 new ‘fast-charging’ EVs to its fleet in Singapore with SP providing “preferential” pricing at the organization’s charging stations. Grab said drivers who opt for an EV — which will be “progressively rolled out” from early 2019 — can expect to increase their earnings by as much as 25 percent over drivers using petrol engines thanks to SP’s ‘mates’ rate.’

The partnership with SP is important to Grab because infrastructure such as charging stations and cost savings are crucial to persuading the most active car drivers to make a move to electric. Ride-sharing drivers certainly rank in the group that can make a difference.

SP has committed to operating 500 charging stations by 2020, which would become Singapore’s largest of its kind. An initial 30 are expected to be up and running before the end of this year and, when ready, Grab said they will charge its upcoming EV model in just 40 mins. Each charge would allow 400km of driving, the company added.

Grab said it has a number EVs within in its Singapore fleet today — it declined to disclose numbers but claimed it is “the largest electric and hybrid vehicle fleet in Southeast Asia” — but these charging stations and the potential to earn additional income are sure to help boost that number, whatever it may be.

This initiative applies to Singapore, but a Grab spokesperson told TechCrunch that the company intends to expand its EV fleet regionally in due time. The company didn’t provide any specifics on that plan, however.

Grab operates in seven countries in Southeast Asia, but Singapore is the most advanced in terms of EV infrastructure. The company recently raised $2 billion from Toyota and othersIt acquired Uber’s regional business in March and today it claims over 100 million downloads with more than two billion rides completed to date. Grab recently claimed its annual revenue run rate has surpassed $1 billion, but it has not provided profit or loss numbers.

Outside of electric, Grab has previously forayed into self-driving vehicles through a partnership with Nutonomy. That relationship appears to have ended after Nutonomy was acquired by auto firm Delphi last year. A month before that deal, Grab made an investment in another self-driving car startup, Drive.ai, which said it planned to open an office in Singapore.