Nvidia unveils Drive Thor, a chip to rule all software-defined vehicles TechCrunch

Nvidia is preparing to deliver Drive Thor, its next-generation automotive-grade chip that the company says will be able to unify a wide range of in-car technologies, from automated driving features and driver monitoring systems to Netflix streaming in the back for the kids.

Thor, which will go into production in 2025, isn’t just notable because it’s a step up from Nvidia’s Drive Orin chip. It also takes the place of Drive Atlan in the lineup.

Nvidia drops Drive Atlan system on chip earlier than expected for Thor, Founder and CEO Jensen Huang said at the company’s GTC event on Tuesday. Still in a race to develop bigger, badder chips, Nvidia is opting for Thor, which at 2,000 teraflops of performance will deliver double the compute and throughput, the company says.

“If we look at a car today, the advanced driver assistance systems, parking, driver monitoring, camera mirrors, digital instrument cluster and infotainment are all different computers spread across the whole vehicle,” Nvidia Vice President of Automotive Danny Shapiro said at a press conference. Monday briefing. “In 2025, these functions will no longer be separate computers. Rather, Drive Thor will allow manufacturers to effectively consolidate these functions into a single system, reducing overall system cost.

One chip to rule them all. A chip to help automakers build software-defined autonomous vehicles. One chip for continuous live upgrade.

Nvidia already has several automotive customers building software-defined fleets using Drive chips. For example, Volvo announced in January at the annual CES tech conference that its new automated driving features would be powered by Drive Orin. The automaker also said it will power its infotainment system with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chip. It was precisely this sharing of space with competitors that probably prompted Nvidia to create a more robust chip.

Zeekr is the first to raise his hand for Thor. The Geely-owned Chinese luxury electric vehicle startup said it will use the advanced chip for its next generation of vehicles from 2025, according to Shapiro.

XPeng is already using Drive Orin, the latest generation chip, for its G9 SUV, which will be able to support very advanced driver assistance functions, “such as parking and driving on main and secondary streets, highways and private roads, and safe handling, entering and exiting highways, city roads and toll roads,” said Shapiro. No doubt XPeng, which recently launched its City Navigated Guided Pilot ADAS in its P5 sedan and plans to roll it out in the G9, will sign for the upgraded chip.

Shapiro also noted that autonomous solutions provider QCraft will begin robotaxi operations in China powered by Orin.

Other automakers that have already announced the use of Nvidia’s Drive Orin include Baidu’s EV Company, JiDU Auto, NIO, Li Auto, R Auto, IM Motors, and Polestar. It should be noted that a good number of Nvidia’s automotive customers are based in China. While the chipmaker is based in California, its chips, along with those of almost everyone else, are produced in Taiwan.

Can Nvidia deliver Thor to Chinese customers?

Earlier this month, the US government imposed restrictions on the export of advanced AI chips to China, including Hong Kong and Russia. Nvidia does not sell to Russia, but China sanctions could cost it up to $400 million in potential sales in the third quarter. The U.S. said the move would address the risk of the chips being used or diverted to a “military end use” or “military end user” in China and Russia, but it’s also an administration decision. Biden to prevent China from becoming a more dominant player in the essential and lucrative chip production industry.

The government has restricted access specifically to Nvidia’s A100 and H100 graphics processing units. Luckily for Nvidia, the company can continue to manufacture the H100 in China, although Chinese customer purchases are limited.

Shapiro said automotive customers will not be affected by restrictions on Nvidia’s high-end data center products, and that the company is working with Chinese customers and the US government to “provide different alternatives that are not subject to to the same license”. terms.”

Updates to Drive SIM and digital twin technology

Nvidia Drive SIM is based on Nvidia Omniverse, which provides the main simulation and rendering engines for the development of autonomous vehicles. Picture credits: Nvidia

At the GTC event, Nvidia also announced that its end-to-end simulation platform, Drive SIM, is getting a new suite of AI tools it calls the “Neural Reconstruction Engine.” in order to aid in the testing and development of self-driving. Vehicles.

“By using a neural engine composed of several [deep neural networks]real-world rides can be accurately recreated and replayed in the simulation with the ability to change sensor configurations and locations, create new scenarios, and change or add new aspects of other riders’ behavior the road,” Shapiro said.

The way it works is that the AI ​​can deconstruct a 3D scene from recorded sensor data, and then that scene can be augmented in Drive SIM with human-made or AI-generated content.

Nvidia said these upgrades will also allow car designers, software engineers, and electronics engineers to collaborate in Drive SIM to simulate the software inside the car.

The company also announced the second generation of Nvidia OVX, which will provide immersive digital twins of cities that can be operated in Nvidia’s Omniverse.

BMW Group and Jaguar Land Rover are among the first customers to use OVX, Shapiro said, noting that marketing group WPP is using the Omniverse cloud to create a suite of services for automotive customers, like personalized programmatic ads that present “a perfectly real photo content”. via virtual sets, which will save automakers huge amounts of “costs” for expensive photo and video shoots that are typically done in scenic locations around the world.