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Photo illustration courtesy of Nvidia

Mercedes Benz is teaming up with Nvidia to create a perpetually upgradable computing platform for vehicles that will allow cars to add automated driving functions over time, becoming smarter and more valuable the longer they are on the road.

Why it matters: Self-driving technology won't arrive in a snap. Instead, it will roll out gradually through periodic software updates, similar to the way people refresh their smartphones. It's a fundamental shift in thinking that will extend the life of cars, and allow even used-car buyers to get the latest technologies.

The big picture: Tesla already enables over-the-air updates on its vehicles, a benefit of designing its automotive computing platform from scratch.

  • Other carmakers are racing to catch up, but must transition from legacy engineering platforms to newer electrical architectures capable of supporting the huge computing needs of automated driving technology.
  • Mercedes and Nvidia said their new platform would be "the most sophisticated and advanced computing architecture ever deployed in an automobile."

Details: The new AI computing infrastructure will be rolled out across Mercedes' entire fleet of models, starting in 2024.

  • A key feature will be the ability of cars to drive themselves on regular routes from one address to another, the companies said.
  • Other safety and convenience features will be available for purchase or subscription, including ones that haven't been invented yet.
  • Even second and third owners of a Mercedes vehicle will be able to add features or subscribe to services they desire.

The backdrop: Mercedes' partnership with Nvidia comes less than a week after the German automaker abandoned what was meant to be a long-term collaboration with BMW to develop next-generation automated driving technology.

  • It's the latest in a series of future mobility projects that have fizzled between the German rivals.
  • Mercedes spokesman Bernhard Wardin said the companies' timing didn't align. "BMW wanted to stick with their technology for a longer time, and we wanted to update our system for 2024."
  • BMW said it is confident in the autonomous technology it is developing through an existing partnership with Intel, Mobileye, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Ansys.

What to watch: If cars can be perpetually updated, there's less of an incentive to replace them. Carmakers will need to ensure the revenue stream from those software updates is sufficient to make up for lower vehicle turnover.

Go deeper

California moves to phase out new gasoline-powered cars

California Gov. Gavin Newsom. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

California Gov. Gavin Newsom is issuing an executive order that seeks to eliminate sales of new gasoline-powered cars in his state by 2035, a move the White House said President Trump "won't stand for."

Why it matters: California is the largest auto market in the U.S., and transportation is the biggest source of carbon emissions in the state and nationwide.

25 mins ago - World

Blinken to visit Ukraine as Russia invasion threat looms

Blinken (R) with President Zelensky. Photo: Efrem Lukatsky/Pool via Getty

Secretary of State Antony Tony Blinken will travel to Ukraine on Tuesday as the country faces an ongoing threat of Russian invasion.

Driving the news: Blinken will meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, as well as officials at the U.S. embassy in Kyiv to discuss contingency planning. He'll then travel to Berlin to meet German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and attend a meeting of the "Transatlantic Quad" — France, Germany, the U.K. and U.S.

Updated 31 mins ago - World

At least 3 dead after Tonga volcano eruption and tsunami

A satellite image of the explosive eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano on Saturday. Photo: UNICEF/NOAA

At least three people are confirmed to have died in Tonga following the undersea volcanic eruption that sent tsunami waves toward the island nation and across the Pacific over the weekend, officials said Tuesday.

The big picture: Officials reported major damage along the western coast of the main island of Tongatapu, where the capital, Nuku'alofa, was covered in ash and dust, including on the runway of the airport. Officials in Tonga confirmed three deaths in the country's first official statement since the crisis began.