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Nvidia's new Pegasus platform will power Level 5 self-driving cars

It builds upon the Drive PX 2 platform unveiled in 2016.

Back in 2016, Nvidia unveiled the Drive PX 2 platform, a powerful setup to help usher in autonomous vehicle technology. Now, less than two years later, Nvidia has something better.

Nvidia on Tuesday announced its latest Drive PX platform, codenamed Pegasus. Capable of handling over 320 trillion operations per second, the Pegasus is reportedly 10 times as powerful as the Drive PX 2 that preceded it.

This thing will be buried so far into the car, you'll probably never see it. If you do, stop taking your car apart.


Most importantly, Nvidia says this platform is fully capable of supporting Level 5 autonomous vehicles, which operate entirely autonomously, independent of human control. There are about 225 companies using the Drive PX platform, and 25 of them are working on Level 5 cars, most of which will likely move to Pegasus when it's made available in mid-2018.

Since Level 5 cars must constantly monitor the environment, Pegasus has a whole lot of space for attachments. It can work with standard automotive inputs, and there are 16 separate inputs for things like radar and lidar emitters, ultrasonic sensors and cameras. It relies on two Xavier system-on-a-chip processors and two discrete GPUs with a focus on computer vision algorithms and machine learning. Basically, no matter how much data you throw at it, Pegasus can handle it.

"Today, dozens of companies are racing to develop robotaxis, but they are still gated by the massive computation needs of a truly driverless car," Luca De Ambroggi, senior principal automotive analyst at IHS Markit, said in a statement. "The new Nvidia Drive PX Pegasus shows the path to production for the automakers, startups and automotive ecosystem working to deliver this amazing vision."

Of course, when the platform comes out, we won't see Level 5 vehicles popping up overnight. And automakers don't necessarily need to work with Nvidia to enable Level 5 autonomy. But having such a powerful platform in your corner certainly doesn't hurt -- although that pain-free experience likely won't extend to the wallet.