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Nvidia's DrivePX "Pegasus" can process 320 trillion operations per second. Photo: Nvidia

Nvidia just announced plans for "Pegasus," its next-generation system for autonomous cars. Due out in the second half of next year, Pegasus is a license-plate sized computer that the chip giant says can process 320 trillion operations per second. That, Nvidia said, is the equivalent to a 100-server data center and — more importantly — enough to power a fully autonomous car.

Why it matters: Increasing raw compute power is just one of the hurdles to getting to fully self-driving cars into mass production. That said, such a boost in processing allows the cars to make more use within the vehicle, including real-time analysis and inference based on data from radar, lidar and optical sensors.

Current picture: Although companies are already testing fully autonomous vehicles, most are very rough prototypes. On the compute side, most of the cars today have multiple PCs or servers in the trunk consuming thousands of watts of power.

"This is the path to production," says Danny Shapiro, senior director for automotive at Nvidia.

The competition: Intel and Qualcomm are also pursuing a role in the autonomous car industry with each company having an area of strength, according to analyst Patrick Moorhead, president of Moor Insights and Strategy.

  • Nvidia has the early lead on the processing and machine learning side.
  • Intel recently acquired MobileEye, which is a leader in advanced driver assistance systems.
  • Qualcomm is doing well when it comes to modems and infotainment systems.

Yes, but: Nvidia's move is a big one, Moorhead says.

"It has been possible to have the required compute level in a datacenter and even filling the back of the car, but it sucked way too much power and was too large and took too much cooling to be an effective auto solution," he says.

Go deeper

1 hour ago - World

Biden freezes U.S. arms deals with Saudi Arabia and UAE

Trump struck several large arms deals with Mohammed bin Salman (L) and Saudi Arabia. Photo: Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

The Biden administration has put on hold two big arms deals with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates which were approved in the final weeks of the Trump administration, a State Department official tells Axios.

Why it matters: The sales of F-35 jets and attack drones to the UAE and a large supply of munitions to Saudi Arabia will be paused pending a review. That signals a major policy shift from the Trump era, and may herald sharp tensions with both Gulf countries.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
2 hours ago - Podcasts

Robert Downey Jr. launches VC funds to help save the planet

Robert Downey Jr. on Wednesday announced the launch of two venture capital funds focused on startups in the sustainability sector, the latest evolution of a project he launched two years ago called Footprint Coalition.

Between the lines: This is a bit of life imitating art, as Downey Jr. spent 11 films portraying a character who sought to save the planet (or, in some cases, the universe).

DHS warns of "heightened threat" because of domestic extremism

Supporters of former President Trump protest inside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Photo: Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images

The Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday issued an advisory warning of a "heightened threat environment" in the U.S. because of "ideologically-motivated violent extremists."

Why it matters: DHS believes the threat of violence will persist for "weeks" following President Biden's inauguration. The extremists include those who opposed the presidential transition, people spurred by "grievances fueled by false narratives" and "anger over COVID-19 restrictions ... and police use of force[.]"