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Huang stressed that computing power is key to autonomous driving (Photo: Nvidia)

MUNICH - Nvidia has developed a computer platform small enough to leave sufficient room in the trunk and powerful enough to manage the array of systems needed to make Level 5 autonomous vehicles a reality.

Nvidia founder and CEO Jensen Huang unveiled the platform, which is codenamed Pegasus, during the company's GPU Technology conference here. He said Pegasus, a new member of Nvidia's Drive PX family of autonomous driving systems, is designed to power vehicles such as the robotaxis that many people believe may be the first driverless cars on public roads.

Huang stressed that driverless car technology will only work with massive computing power on board. "In the old world, the more powerful your engine, the smoother your ride will be,” he said. “In the future, the more computational performance you have, the smoother your ride will be.”

Robotaxis require high-resolution, 360-degree surround cameras, radars and lidars, as well as other computer-intensive systems. In addition, all systems must have multiple levels of redundancy to provide the kind of safety and security that people in cars expect. Nvidia believes that driverless cars will require as much as 100 times the computing power that traditional vehicles need.

In his keynote address, Huang showed that his Pegasus platform is roughly the size of a license plate. It would replace a whole trunk full of computing equipment that today is used in Level 5 test cars. Pegasus delivers 320 trillion operations a second of computing power.

The platform will rely heavily on artificial intelligence to deal with the requirements of autonomous driving. And, as part of this focus on AI and machine learning, the company announced the release of a new software development kit for its AI co-pilot technologies.

The SDK, called Nvidia Drive IX, will deploy AI to understand sensor data from cameras and microphones. This, in turn, will make it possible to introduce new capabilities to offer safety and convenience features in tomorrow's cars.

Deutsche-Post-DHL-300x200 Deutsche Post DHL will upgrade its fleet of up to 3.400 StreetScooters to be autonomous on the last mile. (Photo: DPDHL)

During the technology event, Nvidia and automotive supplier ZF Friedrichshafen announced that Germany's mail and logistics giant Deutsche Post DHL will deploy a test fleet of autonomous delivery trucks starting next year. The electric light trucks will feature ZF's ProAI self-driving system, which is based on Nvidia's DRIVE PX technology. ZF said the trucks will play a key role in automating package transportation and delivery, including the so-called “last mile” of deliveries.

"In supply logistics and on the last mile where autonomous driving has tremendous benefits, goods can be delivered independent of the time of the day and delivery staff," ZF CEO Stefan Sommer said. This will significantly reduce traffic congestion in city centers, he added.

Deutsche Post DHL has a fleet of 3,400 StreetScooter electric vehicles that can be equipped with sensors feeding into the ZF ProAI system, which uses artificial intelligence to make the best delivery plan.

-By Arjen Bongard