Joachim Langenwalter, Germany-based director automotive at Nvidia, is responsible for software deliveries to automakers and suppliers in Europe. At the chipmaker’s GTC conference in Munich, he spoke to automotiveIT about autonomous driving technology, cyber security and the challenges faced by the auto industry today.

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Nvidia’s Langenwalter expects self-driving cars to become available in both the premium and the volume segments (Photo: Nvidia)

Claas Berlin: The image of autonomous driving has taken a bit of a hit following serious accidents with driverless cars run by Uber and Tesla. What are the biggest technology challenges that need to be overcome to make self-driving cars viable?

Joachim Langenwalter: What you need is a high-performance and secure comprehensive system and not just a pieced together solution of hardware and software elements. In addition, you need substantial simulation and test phases. Those include real tests on the road as well as regression tests. Nvidia manages the training of neural networks and deployment with the help of a high-performance end-to-end platform. And, of course, you will need independent assessments of the complete hardware and software process by testing organizations such as Germany’s TUEV.

Nvidia cooperates with a range of automakers on autonomous driving technologies. They include Daimler, Audi and Volvo, for example. But are fully driverless cars ever going to move from vision to reality?

The big goal is mobility as a service. Autonomous driving surely is a technology that will establish itself first and foremost in the premium segment. But Nvidia is also cooperating with volume carmakers such as Volkswagen and Toyota. In future, I am convinced we will see a combination of autonomous premium shuttles, a self-driving fleet for the average earner and automated minivans and buses.

Hacking attacks on connected vehicles are on the rise. How can you protect the IT infrastructure in safety and security relevant parts of autonomous vehicles?

The problem with cyber attacks is real. That’s why the industry has agreed specific security standards. Companies have to be proactive and meet all necessary security requirements so that no-one can access systems without permission. At the same time, security mechanisms are being further developed. But there is no such thing as a 100 percent security guarantee. Weaknesses are discovered at hacker conferences and these are immediately addressed by our product security teams. You then have to look in your database to see which customers are affected. With the help of our security risk management, we then undertake relevant countermeasures and, if needed, update software.