Nvidia's Drive PX Pegasus is a next-generation robotaxi brain

We string many words together around here describing the gaming performance of Nvidia's desktop and mobile graphics silicon, as well as the ever-expanding applications of the company's chips in the context of data center machine learning and artificial intelligence. The company wants to take that AI and put it out onto city streets with the Drive PX Pegasus, the next generation of its Drive PX platform for autonomous vehicles. Nvidia says Pegasus packs ten times the performance of its predecessor, the Drive PX2. The company wants its partners to deploy Pegasus in a future fleet of fully-autonomous taxis.

This is The Tech Report, so we'll pause a moment to talk about the hardware specifications. Pegasus delivers up to 320 trillion operations per second from two of Nvidia's Xavier SoCs coupled with a pair of discrete GPUs. The Xavier chips each feature embedded graphics hardware based on the company's Volta architecture. Chips based on the Volta architecture are only now spreading into well-funded datacenters, and the GPUs on the Pegasus board are based on Volta's future successor. Nvidia says those discrete chips contain specialized hardware for accelerating deep learning and computer vision algorithms. The company says all of this computing power will fit into a system the size of a license plate. Since the company made the announcement at GTC Europe in Germany, we aren't sure if that means a U.S. or a European plate, though.

The Pegasus is designed to receive an Automotive Safety Integrity Level D certification, the highest standard of functional safety for road vehicles as defined by the ISO. The system has a CANbus interface for connecting with existing automotive electronics and the next-generation Flexray automotive communications bus. Pegasus also has 16 dedicated inputs for cameras, radar, lidar, and ultrasonics, in addition to multiple 10 Gigabit Ethernet connections.

The green graphics guys say their system could allow people to reclaim billions of hours lost behind the wheel of a car. The company goes as far as saying vehicles built around Pegasus' technology could eschew steering wheels, pedals, or mirrors, thereby offering increased flexibility to automotive designers. Nvidia claims that machine-driven vehicles could eventually be safer than human-driven cars because AIs aren't distracted, tired, or emotional. The deletion of mechanical features like the steering column from the vehicle interior could potentially improve crash survivability, too.

Nvidia says the Drive PX Pegasus will be available to its automotive partners in the second half of 2018. If you don't work in the purchasing department of a major automotive manufacturer or supplier, the price is probably irrelevant to you. Nvidia says it has 225 partners working with its Drive PX computing platform and that 25 of those are developing fully-autonomous robotaxis.

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