Mercedes will use a complete NVIDIA hardware and software system for its vehicles to drive autonomous driving, with the first cars on the road in 2024.
The system will be based on NVIDIA’s Orin chip, which they claim outperforms Tesla’s FSD computer by ~ 38%.
Mercedes and NVIDIA announced a partnership in 2017, but today they gave us a little more information on when that partnership will pay off.
The NVIDIA system will be available for all next-generation Mercedes vehicles, although it will not necessarily be implemented in all vehicle lines at the same time. But all cars will come with built-in hardware, regardless of whether they are ordered or not with self-driving options installed. This sounds similar to the current Tesla model of including Autopilot hardware in all cars, and then selling full self-driving as a software option.
The companies emphasized that the next generation vehicles will be “software defined” with continuous update capability, also similar to Tesla.
Another aspect of the “software defined” car will be the presence of “applications”, such as on a phone. Some apps may be free and some can be paid (perhaps with subscription models), but this will be a way for owners to personalize their driving experience and for cars to extend their lifespan by getting new features after launch. We don’t know if there will be an API for external developers or if NVIDIA and Mercedes will provide the apps.
NVIDIA and Mercedes claim this will be built on their DRIVE AGX Orin platform, but we wouldn’t be surprised if it is updated before 2024. Computer hardware is moving fast, and the Orin will likely look outdated within four years.
While NVIDIA claims Orin is capable of autonomous driving up to level 5 (a driverless car present in the vehicle), Mercedes only plans to take the system to level 2 or 3 (the human driver is still in the seat. actively monitoring), with level 4 parking capacity (fully autonomous geofenced operation, with human override available).
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Traditional car manufacturers have had increasing difficulties with car software in recent years as phone manufacturers have fired up with information and entertainment systems that are much more usable than traditional car systems. 97% of new cars in the US USA They come equipped with Apple CarPlay, and most drivers use that and rarely touch their car’s default infotainment system. And Tesla has been doing over-the-air upgrades for its in-car systems for many years.
NVIDIA is not particularly known for its software, rather its hardware, but a Silicon Valley company is likely to have an easier time leveraging software expertise than the world’s oldest automaker.
But the industry is moving fast and 2024 is a long way off. This shows one of the difficulties that traditional manufacturers have had: the life cycle of the standard car model is ~ 7 years or so, and vehicles can start to feel very dated in that time period. And NVIDIA’s partnership with Mercedes began in 2017 and it takes seven years to go from that to delivering a vehicle to the road.
We can imagine that the auto industry will look very different in 2024 from what it is now, which means Mercedes is aiming for a moving target here. If they seek to compete with today’s technology in 2024, they will be left behind.
That’s why a “software defined vehicle” is important because software iterates much faster than hardware, which will help Mercedes achieve that goal on the move. This change in mindset could be crucial for Mercedes-Benz in a rapidly changing technological environment.
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