Mercedes-Benz and Nvidia team up to develop next-generation supercomputers for automobiles

Mercedes-Benz has partnered with Nvidia to develop a next-generation vehicle computing platform that will support everything from over-the-air software updates to automated driving. The German automaker said it plans to start implementing the new technology in its fleet starting in 2024.

The new platform will build on Nvidia’s Orin on-chip technology and will also utilize the San José-based company’s comprehensive Drive AGX software package. Nvidia first introduced Orin to CES in December 2019, and aside from front-line specs like the ability to deliver up to 200 trillion operations per second while using less power, the company has yet to provide further details.

The new platform includes a full-system software stack that can support a variety of automated driving applications, including advanced driver assistance systems like the Tesla autopilot and Cadillac Super Cruise, as well as driverless parking features like Tesla Smart Summon.

It will also allow for smartphone-style wireless software updates on all Mercedes vehicles starting at age four. Legacy automakers have struggled to catch up on Tesla, which has long been the leader in sending over-the-air (OTA) updates to its customers to change everything from its autopilot driver assistance system to the range of your electric vehicles. It is similar to how Apple or Samsung, for example, can update or repair software on a smartphone.

Nvidia’s Drive system can track the driver’s head and eyes to assess when they’re paying attention to the road, and can monitor the blink rate to assess drowsiness. Depending on the manufacturer’s preferences, Nvidia says the system can alert the driver with audio, visual, or tactile warnings to refocus on the road. Drive IX can also monitor the environment outside the vehicle. If a driver is about to exit the vehicle without looking when a cyclist approaches, Nvidia says Drive IX provides an alert or physically prevents the door from opening until the cyclist has passed safely.

GM was one of the first major automakers to introduce an OTA system after Tesla. Ford recently said it would start rolling out software updates for its 2020 models. Daimler is now ready to join the fray.

“By downloading new features and updates from the cloud, we want to continually update the system, thereby increasing the value of the vehicle,” Daimler CEO Ola Källenius said in a joint statement with Nvidia on Tuesday.

The announcement comes immediately after news that Mercedes’ parent company Daimler and BMW were terminating their automated driving partnership, a fact that did not escape some industry analysts. The two German auto giants announced in early 2019 plans to spend more than $ 1 billion on a joint mobility effort that encompasses autonomous cars, transportation, electric scooters, car sharing, and electric car charging. But this week, the two companies said the alliance’s autonomous vehicle portion would be on hold.

According to Automotive NewsDaimler said BMW’s cooperation would have meant that Mercedes couldn’t use the technology as quickly as it should now with Nvidia.

“I think it’s no coincidence,” said Sam Abuelsamid, senior analyst at Guidehouse, of the timing of the announcement. “I suspect that the two automakers couldn’t agree on a platform to use, and at the moment Orin seems like a much more powerful solution than anything coming from Intel / Mobileye.” (BMW is part of a super group, which includes Intel, Mobileye and Fiat Chrysler, which is working on the development of semi-autonomous and fully autonomous technologies for production vehicles.)

Abuelsamid noted that it is unclear how well the Nvidia software stack will work compared to other solutions. “Nvidia is very focused on neural network software,” he said, “and most of the industry [is] going back to a mix of deterministic and probabilistic (AI) algorithms. “

Nvidia, one of the world’s best-known computer graphics card manufacturers, has been involved for several years in a high-risk venture to build the “brains” that drive autonomous cars in hopes of selling them to major automakers. like Volvo, Volkswagen and Daimler. The Santa Clara-based company wants to be the ideal supercomputer for those who can cope with the enormous expense associated with becoming a “full stack” AV operator.