Volvo has announced a new initiative to put its own self-driving cars on the road by 2021. The Swedish carmaker is teaming up with Autoliv (a Swedish-American firm that makes automotive safety systems) to develop the necessary software, while a partnership with chipmaker Nvidia will supply the computing power.
Volvo’s cars will be powered by Nvidia’s Drive PX ‘supercomputer’ — a custom hardware array designed specially for self-driving cars. The Drive PX2 can process data from 12 video streams at once, as well as juggling input from lidar, radar, and ultrasonic sensors. Put all this together and you have the necessary data to keep your self-driving car on the straight and narrow. If you’ve got algorithms that can tell stop signs from sidewalks.
Nvidia and Volvo have previously used the PX platform for an autonomous car pilot scheme called “Drive Me,” announced earlier this year. But while Drive Me was purely experimental, this new initiative aims to deliver self-driving cars that can actually be sold to consumers. The self-driving software produced by Autoliv and Volvo (the two are partnering under the name of a new company, Zenuity) will also be available to sell to other carmakers, creating another revenue stream for Volvo if its own cars don’t do so well.
This news really underlines two pretty established trends in the automotive industry. The first is the tendency for companies to jump into bed together, forming slightly vague partnerships that they hope will let them benefit from the predicted (but not yet realized) self-driving car boom. And the second is Nvidia’s ability to stay on top of all this — riding the wave of AI and deep learning excitement to increased influence. And hopefully, at the end of it all, we’ll get some self-driving cars too.