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BMW adopts Nvidia GPU for in-car displays

Nvidia announces partnerships with BMW and Tesla to supply graphics chips for in-car infotainment systems.

BMW navigation system
BMW will use the Nvidia GPU to enhance its 3D maps. Josh P. Miller/CNET

LAS VEGAS--After dominating PC graphics, Nvidia set its sights on other industries, most recently getting into the automotive sector, powering navigation system graphics in Audi cars. Now Nvidia announces a partnership with BMW to power the graphics in all of its infotainment systems.

In Audi navigation systems, the Nvidia GPU allows rich 3D building and landscape rendering. BMW's current high-end navigation systems also employ rich 3D maps, but the Nvidia GPU should improve rendering speed. Nvidia says its GPU will enable 1280x600 resolution graphics in BMW's next generation infotainment system.

A prototype of the new infotainment system will be on display in a BMW 5-series at CES this week.

BMW says it will use the Nvidia-powered systems in all of its models and in the company's other brands. That brand list includes Mini and Rolls-Royce.

BMW has not mentioned a time frame for the rollout.

Tesla Model S screen
The Tesla Model S comes with a 17 inch infotainment screen. Nvidia

Nvidia invades the electric car
Nvidia also announced a partnership with Tesla Motors in which it will provide its Tegra processor for the Tesla Model S. These processors will power the car's 17-inch infotainment display and its video-based instrument cluster.

The Model S, a sedan, is Tesla's next all-electric car, and will succeed the Roadster. Tesla plans to start producing the Model S in 2012.

Nvidia touts the Tegra processor's low energy requirements as a boon to electric cars. In the Model S, it will show 3D maps and detailed graphical information about the car's energy usage and range. At 17 inches, the central LCD will be the largest in use for an automotive infotainment system. The instrument cluster will be a 12.3-inch display.

The Tegra processor uses eight cores, including a low-power GeForce GPU, an ARM Cortex-A9 CPU, and a mobile 1080p HD video processor.