Nvidia launches low-power AI system for driverless taxis and delivery vehicles
Nvidia has announced an artificial intelligence (AI) platform, dubbed ‘Pegasus’, designed to power fully autonomous driverless vehicles.
The company, known for its GPU-making prowess, said that it was already working with 25 different manufacturers (OEMs) to implement the platform into their vehicles including Tesla, which will include it in the Model S.
Although Nvidia’s Drive PX software was unveiled last year, this year’s Pegasus iteration is capable of taking full control of a vehicle without any human interaction whatsoever and is designed to be mass-produced for use by OEMs. The company envisages that the first driverless vehicles to hit the streets en masse will be taxis and delivery vans.
Germany’s Deutsche Post is planning to use the technology to deploy a fleet of autonomous delivery trucks starting in 2018. The fleet will be used to cover the ‘last mile’ when delivering to customers, typically considered to be the most complex and costly aspect of courier and e-commerce services. It will eventually allow customers to receive orders at any time, day or night, without the limitations imposed by human drivers.
Prototype driverless cars currently contain what are effectively small data centres in their boots, loaded with racks of computers that are used to understand the world around them in order to navigate while avoiding obstacles and obeying the rules of the road.
The downside of these systems is that they are heavy and consume a lot of power: significant drawbacks considering the batteries integrated into electric vehicles are already straining to achieve acceptable ranges.
The Pegasus platform is designed to drastically reduce the power consumption, size and weight of these driverless systems so that they can be included in mass-produced vehicles without compromising their range or being prohibitively expensive. The platform represents one of the first attempts to commoditise driverless technology.
“Creating a fully self-driving car is one of society’s most important endeavours — and one of the most challenging to deliver,” said Jensen Huang, NVIDIA founder and CEO.
“The breakthrough AI computing performance and efficiency of Pegasus is crucial for the industry to realise this vision.
“Driverless cars will enable new ride- and car-sharing services. New types of cars will be invented, resembling offices, living rooms or hotel rooms on wheels.
“Travellers will simply order up the type of vehicle they want, based on their destination and activities planned along the way. The future of society will be reshaped.
“The development of autonomous delivery vehicles demonstrates how AI and deep learning are also reshaping the commercial transportation industry.
“As online shopping continues to explode, and the shortage of truck drivers becomes more dire, AI-enabled vehicles will be key to providing last-mile delivery services.”
In August Germany created a set of legal guidelines around driverless vehicles that mandates that their AI should prioritise human life over property or animals.