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NVIDIA and Mercedes-Benz driving software-defined vehicles

NVIDIA and Mercedes-Benz driving the transition to software-defined vehicles
(Image credit: Jamesteohart / Shutterstock)

Autonomous driving technology is set to transform the way we move with safer, more efficient transportation. However, current vehicle architecture is not capable of supporting the AI software necessary to make this technology a reality.

Today, a vehicle’s software functions are powered by dozens of electronic control units, known as ECUs, that are distributed throughout the car. Each is specialized — one unit controls windows and one the door locks, for example, and others control power steering and braking.

Centralizing and unifying the compute architecture in the car will make it easier to integrate and update advanced software features for automated and autonomous driving as they are developed. Just like a smartphone, which periodically gets software updates, these software-defined vehicles will be perpetually updateable machines.

Not only does this architecture accelerate technology development, but it’s also driving the single biggest business model transformation the industry has ever seen. By implementing a new vehicle computing architecture, one that’s upgradeable and built around high-performance computers, automakers can take full advantage of this new technology and develop a loyal installed base.

When entire vehicle fleets are supported by teams of AI experts and software engineers delivering advanced features to continuously improve the driving experience, the opportunities to delight customers is boundless. New features, new capabilities and new business models go hand-in-hand, benefitting the consumer and the industry.

Legendary global automaker Mercedes-Benz will be one of the first manufacturers to take advantage of this new architecture, implementing a software-defined, upgradeable fleet built on NVIDIA DRIVE AGX Orin starting production in 2024.

Updating expectations

Once a customer drives a new car off the dealership lot, they rarely continue to interact with the automaker, except for service and maintenance. With the average age of vehicles on the road around 11 years, opportunities to surprise and delight customers are few and far between.

Software-defined vehicles completely transform this relationship. With a software-defined architecture, cars can add capabilities and services over the air at any time for not just one customer, but across multiple customers through the life of the car.

These new services require increased support. Software, once built, lives forever, and companies who deliver software must be able to support it for as long as they live. This is what NVIDIA has been doing for decades, beginning with our gaming graphics cards, moving to the enterprise and mission critical business applications and will continue to do for vehicles of the future.

The software-defined architecture also opens up opportunities for developers. The NVIDIA DRIVE ecosystem already includes hundreds of automakers, suppliers, sensor companies, mapmakers and software startups. With the capability to provide new apps in the vehicle, more developers can contribute and expand this ecosystem into even more technologies.

Improving safety with software

The hallmark feature of software-defined vehicles is automated driving capabilities. With AI assisting, and later, driving the car, our roads will be safer and more efficient.

Already, some vehicles are capable of Level 2+ automated driving, handling steering and braking under human supervision. With regular software updates, these features can improve to Level 3 and beyond, for address-to-address autonomous driving, valet parking and more.

And by equipping every production vehicle with the sensors and compute necessary for self-driving, fleets can continuously collect driving data and regularly provide new and diverse scenarios for AI software training. This fleet learning ensures constant improvement of the system for a consistently safer and better performing experience.

While these cars will still have a human at the wheel, more people can take advantage of the benefits of autonomy without having to switch to an entirely new vehicle. These AI-based capabilities can reduce human error on the road, creating a safer driving environment for all road users.

Mercedes-Benz plans software-defined future fleet

Starting in 2024, every next-generation Mercedes-Benz vehicle will include this first-of-its-kind software-defined computing architecture that includes the most powerful computer, system software and applications for consumers, marking the turning point of traditional vehicles becoming high-performance, updateable computing devices.

This next generation fleet will be developed with AI from end to end, beginning in the data center.

Both Mercedes-Benz and NVIDIA will work together to validate intelligent new autonomous driving experiences using NVIDIA DRIVE Infrastructure solutions. DRIVE Infrastructure encompasses the complete data center hardware, software and workflows needed to develop and validate autonomous driving technology, from raw data collection through validation.

It provides the building blocks required for DNN development and training as well as provides necessary validation, replay and testing in simulation to enable a safe autonomous driving experience.

NVIDIA’s complete DRIVE Software stack, including DriveWorks, Perception, Mapping and Planning, will run on Mercedes-Benz’ new, centralized compute architecture using the NVIDIA DRIVE AGX Orin platform. This next-generation AI compute platform delivers 200 trillion operations per second (TOPS) for the entire Mercedes-Benz lineup, from entry level to high end.

By combining the high-performance, energy-efficient compute of NVIDIA DRIVE AGX with Mercedes’ century-plus of automotive engineering experience, this next-gen vehicle architecture will be more capable and cost effective.

And NVIDIA will continue to work with the rest of the industry, bringing AI and high-performance compute to every vehicle for a safer, more efficient and enjoyable driving experience.

  • Katie Burke, Automotive Content Marketing Manager, NVIDIA.