Nvidia, Baidu Partnering to Build AI Platform for Autonomous Cars

The offering will include Nvidia's self-driving vehicle products, such as the Drive PX 2, as well as Baidu's cloud and 3D mapping technologies.

autonomous cars

Nvidia is partnering with Chinese internet company Baidu to create an artificial intelligence-based computing platform for autonomous cars that will include cloud-to-car connectivity and high-definition mapping.

Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang and Baidu CEO Robin Li unveiled the partnership Aug. 31 at the Baidu World Conference in Beijing, saying they will apply technologies from each company to create the platform and build on the work the two have done over the past four years in the rapidly growing field of artificial intelligence (AI).

Baidu reportedly wants to use the platform for a taxi service in China, though a key part of the plan is to make it open to enable other tech firms and carmakers to use it for their autonomous driving efforts.

"We're going to bring together the technical capabilities and the expertise in AI and the scale of two world-class AI companies to build the self-driving car architecture from end-to-end, from top-to-bottom, from the cloud to the car," Huang said in a statement. "We can start applying these capabilities to solve the grand challenges of AI, one of which is intelligent machines. One of the intelligent machines we would like to build in the future is the self-driving car."

The plan is to combine Nvidia's self-driving car products with Baidu's cloud and mapping technologies to create a platform for cloud-based HD maps, automated parking and Level 3 autonomous vehicles, where cars can drive themselves in most instances but still need a human driver to intervene at times. Level 4 is where vehicles become fully autonomous, while Level 5 cars will have no options for human control.

Baidu and Nvidia are among a fast-growing number of tech companies that are applying the work they're doing in such areas as AI and machine learning to the autonomous vehicle field, which proponents say will lead to safer roads, significantly fewer traffic fatalities, more transportation options for such groups as the elderly, children and the disabled, and more energy-efficient cars.

Baidu officials reportedly have said they want to roll out autonomous vehicles in China within the next three years. The news of the company's partnership with Nvidia comes days after California officials gave Baidu permission to test self-driving cars on public roads in the state, joining other vendors such as Tesla Motors and Google. Baidu already is testing them in China, according to the Wall Street Journal.

For its part, Nvidia has been aggressive over the past couple of years in developing autonomous vehicle products based in large part on its GPUs. At the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show, Nvidia officials unveiled the Drive PX, a computer designed for self-driving cars, and this year introduced its successor, the Drive PX 2. The latest version is armed with Nvidia's new generation Denver 2.0 CPU and Pascal-based GPUs to power deep-learning applications that will make cars smart enough to recognize and respond to obstacles such as bikers and pedestrians.

The Denver 2.0 CPU delivers 50 percent to 100 percent better multicore CPU performance than other mobile processors, while the 256-core Pascal GPU can run deep-learning inference algorithms for self-driving functionality and multiple high-resolution displays, including instrument and infotainment displays, officials said. Combined, the CPUs and GPUs deliver up to 1.5 teraflops of performance needed for deep learning and AI capabilities, and the Drive PX 2 (pictured) delivers 8 teraflops of performance and 24 trillion deep-learning operations per second, providing supercomputer-level computing in self-driving cars.

Nvidia officials earlier this year said that automakers like Audi, BMW, Ford, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo are using the Drive PX platform in their development efforts, and the GPU maker had the technology on display at the Baidu show.