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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.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
1 hour ago - Health

What overwhelmed hospitals look like

A healthcare professional suits up to enter a COVID-19 patient's room in the ICU at Van Wert County Hospital in Ohio. Photo: Megan Jelinger/AFP

Utah doctors are doing what they say is the equivalent of rationing care. Intensive care beds in Minnesota are nearly full. And the country overall continues to break hospitalization records — all as millions of Americans travel to spend Thanksgiving with friends and family.

Why it matters: America's health care workers are exhausted, and the sickest coronavirus patients aren't receiving the kind of care that could make the difference between living and dying.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
1 hour ago - Economy & Business

Southwest CEO: "You should fly"

The official guidance of the CDC says that "postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others this year."

  • Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly, however, took the opposing position when he was interviewed by "Axios on HBO." "You should fly," he told me, adding that "we need to have as much commerce and business and movement as is safe to do."