Nvidia launches cloud-based self-driving car simulator

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REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

SAN JOSE, Calif. (Reuters) – Nvidia unveiled on Tuesday a simulator that leverages cloud computing power to test autonomous vehicles, the latest move involving driverless cars that has helped more than double the chipmaker’s stock in the past 12 months.

The Silicon Valley firm is ubiquitous in the budding self-driving technology sector, with ongoing partnerships with automakers, technology companies and auto suppliers, including Tesla, Uber, Baidu and Volkswagen.

Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang said at the company’s annual GPU Conference in San Jose that the cloud-based system, Nvidia Drive Constellation, was based on two different servers, with no need for a physical car. One server simulates the vehicle’s many sensors, and the other runs the vehicle’s software to process the simulated data.

Nvidia has said that using simulation, some 300,000 miles (483,000 km) can be driven in five hours, essentially every paved road in the United States simulated in just two days.

The technology is designed to allow automakers and others to validate their technology on billions of driving miles and increase the strength of their algorithms by repeatedly testing difficult scenarios, which would be impractical in the real world.

The software can simulate glare at sunset, snowstorms, poor road surfaces and dangerous situations to test the vehicle’s ability to react.

Questions over the safety of self-driving cars are swirling in the wake of a fatality involving an Uber self-driving vehicle in Arizona.

Companies generally supplement their real-world driving by simulations, which allow them to cover more miles and so-called tricky “edge cases” more efficiently and more cheaply.

The Nvidia Drive platform is now used by over 370 companies developing self-driving technology, including automakers and robotaxi companies and those making self-driving hardware, such as sensors, said Huang.

Bets that Nvidia will become a leader in chips for driverless cars, data centers and artificial intelligence have sent its shares up 26% since the beginning of the year.

(Reporting by Alexandria Sage; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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