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Chinese companies lead Nvidia partnerships with top AV, EV makers

Some of China’s leading electric vehicle makers and self-driving tech companies are now working with computing supplier Nvidia to develop their next-generation products.

Nvidia unveiled a series of new partnerships Tuesday at its annual technology conference, known commonly as GTC, none bigger than work with Chinese EV maker BYD, which already has more than 780,000 vehicles in operation.

BYD, which includes U.S. billionaire Warren Buffett among its major investors, said it will build its next-generation fleets on Nvidia’s Drive Hyperion architecture and sensor suite for self-driving systems. The company will build future EVs with the eighth iteration of Hyperion starting in 2023, enhancing both driving and parking functionality.

Collectively, Nvidia said it now has $11 billion in auto tech contracts signed for production over the next six years.

“It’s the right technology at the right time,” said Danny Shapiro, Nvidia’s vice president of automotive. “It’s a combination of hardware going into the cars, the massive amount of compute that’s available and the openness of the system that enables all these types of companies from Mercedes-Benz to Zoox the flexibility of so many different applications.”

Among the other newcomers: Lucid Motors, based in the Bay Area, said it is using Nvidia’s Drive platform to underpin its DreamDrive Pro driver-assist system, which can add new capabilities via over-the-air updates.

Further, Chinese robotaxi companies WeRide and DeepRoute, self-driving startup Pegasus Technology and electric skateboard chassis provider UPower all said they would utilize Drive Hyperion.

The ninth iteration of Hyperion is due to arrive in 2026, Nvidia said. Hyperion is powered by the company’s Orin system-on-chip, which is now in production.

Nvidia says Orin is capable of 254 trillion operations per second and will be used by at least 25 automakers, a group that includes Chinese EV makers Nio and XPeng, among others. Automated truck yard operations company Outrider, based in Colorado, will also use Hyperion.

The rollout of new tie-ups comes on the heels of Nvidia and Jaguar Land Rover detailing a partnership on software, automation and artificial intelligence-enabled features last month.

“Electric vehicles have forced a complete redesign of vehicles’ electronic architectures, migrating from fixed functions to highly centralized compute,” Shapiro said. “This shift is what’s enabling all these software-defined vehicles.”

Separately Tuesday, Nvidia introduced its Drive Map, a multimodal mapping engine that’s designed to accelerate development of Level 3 and Level 4 automated vehicles.

The company intends to survey 500,000 kilometers (310,000 miles) across North America, Europe and Asia and create Earth-scale digital twins with centimeter accuracy by 2024. The maps feature independent layers for radar, lidar and camera inputs. Much of the new technology stems from Nvidia’s acquisition of DeepMap last August.

Shapiro says Drive Map and Hyperion are two more products that allow automakers to think about Nvidia as not just a supplier, but a collaborator across the hardware and software ecosystem of the car.

“It’s not transactional in that, ‘I’m buying a chip,’ ” he said. “It’s, ‘I’m in it for the long term and that whole development process.’ And what we deliver with the simulation side and software-in-the-loop testing, and hardware-in-the-loop testing, is a huge benefit.”


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