Nvidia and Baidu may not be household names in most American homes, but they could be soon. Nvidia makes ultra-high performance computer chips that operate advanced computer graphics. Its chips are used by Tesla Motors to power its complex touchscreens. Baidu is a large Chinese search engine company often referred to as the Google of China.
The two companies began working together on artificial intelligence projects in 2012. Speaking last week at the annual Baidu World Conference, Nvidia co-founder and Chief Executive Jen-Hsun Huang announced that his company is working with Baidu to build a self driving car. The vehicle will use an Nvidia processor as part of an algorithm based operating system that will include cloud based, high definition maps. It will also feature the ability to perceive and react to different road environments.
“No company in the world today has demonstrated the ability to integrate this system and deploy it at scale for millions of cars to drive by themselves,” Mr. Huang said. “We are going to bring together our technical capabilities and expertise in AI” to make this happen.
In a separate announcement, Baidu says it has received approval to test its self driving cars in California. It has a US office in Sunnyvale, which is located within the area known as Silicon Valley. For the US market, it is targeting sales within 5 years.
It is currently using Chery EQ electric cars fitted with electronic sensors to test its autonomous driving systems within China. It expects to initiate a ride hailing/sharing service using self driving cars in China by 2018. Baidu is planning to release the vehicles geographically, and is mapping routes to collect information on things like the height of traffic lights and location of curbs.
Assuming the two companies find their partnership fruitful, they could become leaders in the field of autonomous automobiles before the end of the decade, although they face stiff competition from just about every major auto manufacture plus Tesla, Uber, and Google.
You may think you don’t need a self driving car, but a lot of smart people are betting a lot of money that soon you won’t be able to live without one.