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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

AVs have to interpret sensor data, determine their next moves and follow through on them, all of which requires exceedingly complex AI. To meet those demands in real time, computing for AVs will have to happen onboard the vehicle.

Why it matters: The alternative to onboard computing for driving functions would be vehicles relying on unstable network bandwidth for cloud computing while cruising at highway speeds. A specialized AI chip market has emerged to create platforms that can perform these complex computations almost instantaneously, while using as little power as possible.

Where it stands: More than 70 companies have entered the AI chip market in the last few years, and another 100 chip startups have been announced. The next generation of chips could have an array of uses, beyond advancing AV computing power.

  • Nvidia is dominant in the GPU space. It offers a computing platform with a plethora of chip offerings for deep learning that take advantage of GPUs' massive parallel computation abilities. Next-generation technology, however, will introduce more efficient chip architectures designed expressly for deep neural network computation rather than graphics processing.
  • Google has developed a circuit called a Tensor Processing Unit (TPU) that has run common neural networks 15–30 times faster than a comparable GPU, and used far less power to do so.
  • Graphcore, a startup, develops accelerators and software framework together, which arguably combine to make the fastest and most flexible platform for AI applications. Graphcore has developed an Intelligence Processing Unit (IPU), which offers promise for AV use.

What to watch: Roughly 12–15 companies are pulling ahead with their next-generation AI chips, but solidifying a lead will require producing and scaling them as well, which could favor established players or motivate smaller companies to merge with larger ones, as Nervana Systems and Intel did.

Bibhrajit Halder is the CEO of an early-stage AV startup and has worked on autonomous vehicles at Ford, Caterpillar and Apple. He is also a member of GLG, a platform connecting businesses with industry experts.

Go deeper

Updated 9 mins ago - Politics & Policy

"Believe your eyes": Prosecutors make closing arguments in Chauvin trial

Steve Schleicher, an attorney for the prosecution in Derek Chauvin's trial, began closing arguments on Monday by describing in detail George Floyd's last moments — crying out for help and surrounded by strangers, as Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd for nine minutes and 29 seconds.

Why it matters: The jury's verdict in Chauvin's murder trial, seen by advocates as one of the most crucial civil rights cases in decades, will reverberate across the country and have major implications in the fight for racial justice.

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
4 hours ago - Sports

European soccer is at war

Liverpool celebrating its 2019 Champions League victory. Photo: Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

Europe's biggest soccer clubs have established The Super League, a new midweek tournament that would compete with — and threaten the very existence of — the Champions League.

Why it matters: This new league, set to start in 2023, "would bring about the most significant restructuring of elite European soccer since the 1950s, and could herald the largest transfer of wealth to a small set of teams in modern sports history," writes NYT's Tariq Panja.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
5 hours ago - Economy & Business

2021's expected earnings blowout begins

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon. Photo: Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg via Getty Images

First-quarter earnings so far have been very strong, outpacing even the rosy expectations from Wall Street and that's a trend that's expected to continue for all of 2021. S&P 500 companies are on pace for one of the best quarters of positive earnings surprises on record, according to FactSet.

Why it matters: The results show that not only has the earnings recession ended for U.S. companies, but firms are performing better than expected and the economy may be justifying all the hype.

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