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Nvidia to Benefit from Software-Defined Vehicles


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Nvidia held its virtual GTC 2022 conference last week, and as expected there is always several new product introductions — yet this year seems like a record. This column will provide perspectives on the announcements, with a focus on automotive-related product announcements, including Nvidia’s Drive Hyperion 9 platform, Drive Orin and more.

Before this analysis, it is useful to understand how Nvidia is positioned for success in the automotive industry:

  • The key is that Nvidia is continuing to introduce and improve multiple software platforms that are built on top of high–powered chip families, hardware systems and cloud–based infrastructure.
  • All the software platforms have software development kits (SDKs) and a growing hardware and software ecosystem that are advantageous for developing automotive applications.
  • Nvidia’s success in the auto industry and other industries is due to its strategy of making software–defined chips. This includes compatibility across product generations, new hardware features to support the growing levels and needs of software platforms.
  • In essence, Nvidia has been getting ready to support the software–defined vehicle revolution and will increasingly benefit from this megatrend.

Nvidia GTC 2022 key announcements

The following table summarizes the announcements during Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang’s GTC keynote and the many press releases that Nvidia published. The table primarily looks at products that impact the auto industry. Nvidia’s investor presentation from Mar. 22 has additional information and many of the keynote slides are available in PDF format.

(Click image to enlarge)

Chip announcements

The H100 Hopper GPU chip replaces the Ampere 100 as Nvidia’s flagship GPU. The H100 will offer 3x to 6x the performance of the A100 depending on floating point format. The H100 has exceptional memory bandwidth at 3 TB/s, and nearly 5 TB/s of external bandwidth. The H100 is expected to be used in future autonomous vehicle (AV) software platforms.

The DPX instruction set built into H100 GPUs will increase dynamic programming algorithm speeds in multiple industries, boosting workflows for robotics, disease diagnosis, quantum simulation, graph analytics and routing optimizations.

Nvidia also unveiled its latest “superchip” Grace, which has two CPU chips connected over a 900 GB/s NVLink chip–to–chip interconnect to make a 144–Arm–core CPU with 1 TB/s of memory bandwidth.

Grace has an interesting architecture that can handle enormous data loads to and from the chip and other systems. This is advantageous for AI training and inferencing at cloud facilities. It is likely to become valuable in AV software platforms in next generation hardware.

Drive Map

Nvidia’s Drive Map will provide survey–level ground truth mapping coverage to 500,000 kms of roadway in North America, Europe and Asia by 2024. This map will be updated and expanded with data from millions of vehicles. It combines the accuracy of DeepMap survey mapping with continued updates of AI–based crowdsourced mapping.

Drive Map uses multiple localization layers of data for use with camera, radar and lidar. The camera localization layer consists of map attributes such as lane dividers, road markings, road boundaries, traffic lights, signs and poles.

The radar localization layer is an aggregate point cloud of radar returns. It is especially useful in reduced lighting and poor weather conditions. Radar localization is also useful in suburban areas where typical map attributes are unavailable.

The lidar voxel layer provides the most precise and reliable representation of the environment. It builds a 3D representation of the surrounding at 5–centimeter resolution.

Drive Map workflows are centered on Omniverse, where real-world map data is loaded and stored. Omniverse is building an Earth–scale representation of the digital twin that is continuously updated and expanded by survey map vehicles and millions of passenger vehicles.

Omniverse tools can generate detailed maps that are converted into a drivable simulation environment that can be used with Drive Sim.

Nvidia product portfolio (Source: Nvidia) (Click image to enlarge)

Drive Hyperion 9

Nvidia announced Drive Hyperion 9 as its next generation platform for automated vehicles and AVs. Hyperion 9 is scheduled for 2026 production vehicles. It is built on multiple Drive Atlan SoCs for use in AV driving and in–cabin functionality. Hyperion is compatible across generations, with the same computer form factor and Nvidia DriveWorks APIs.

Partners can leverage current investments in the Drive Orin platform and migrate to Drive Atlan and future versions. Hyperion 9 is a programmable platform with redundant Atlan computers and sensors for Level–3 and Level–4 autonomous driving. It can also provide Drive Concierge features.

Hyperion 8 is the current generation based on Drive Orin SoC and Drive IX software. Nvidia announced the start of production of its Drive Orin AV computer. In March alone, over 25 auto OEMs have adopted the Drive Orin with some customers stating production of software-defined vehicles in 2022.

Mercedes–Benz will ship Hyperion 8 systems in 2024 followed by Jaguar Land Rover in 2025.

Omniverse Cloud

Nvidia unveiled Omniverse Cloud at GTC 2022. Omniverse provides designers and developers access to a software platform to create digital twins and similar simulations. Omniverse Cloud users can leverage Omniverse Create, an app for technical designers, to interactively build 3D worlds in real time; and Omniverse View, an app for non-technical users.

Among Omniverse Cloud’s services is Nucleus Cloud, a simple “one–click–to–collaborate” sharing tool to access and edit large 3D scenes from anywhere, without having to transfer massive datasets.

Over 150,000 copies of Omniverse have been downloaded. Nvidia is primarily focused on industrial applications of Omniverse such as robotics, automotive, factories and similar developments.

OVX

Nvidia announced OVX, a computing system architecture designed to power large–scale digital twins. OVX will be available later in 2022.

OVX servers consists of eight Nvidia A40 GPUs, three Nvidia ConnectX–6 Dx 200 GB/s NICs, 1TB system memory and 16TB NVMe flash storage. The backbone of OVX is its networking capabilities including the NVIDIA Spectrum–4 high–performance networking infrastructure platform that was announced. The Spectrum–4 has 100 billion transistors.

Nvidia automotive overview

The following table has a short overview of Nvidia’s platforms that are used in the auto industry. The design wins, current revenue and future revenue potential are also included:

 

(Click image to enlarge)

Key auto platforms

Nvidia has a growing portfolio of software platforms for developing and deploying software–defined vehicles. A summary of auto platforms is listed in the above table, and most were described in the previous sections.

Nvidia Drive Chauffeur is built on Nvidia Drive Orin and the Nvidia Drive SDK. It features perception, mapping, planning layers and diverse deep neural networks (DNN). The DNNs are trained on real–world driving data and synthetic data for both highway and urban traffic scenarios. These perception outputs can be used for both autonomous driving and mapping to deliver a personal chauffeur for your daily drive.

Drive Concierge is a digital assistant built on Nvidia Drive Orin, Drive IX, and Omniverse Avatar to deliver an interactive user experience. It uses conversational AI, natural language understanding and recommendation engines to meet passenger’s requests. It works closely with Drive Chauffeur to enhance the experience inside the car. Drive IX is the integrated vision, voice, and graphics user experience.

EV, robotaxi and autonomous truck design wins

Nvidia has done especially well with Chinese battery electric vehicle (BEV) startups such as Nio, Li Auto and XPeng. These startups designed software–defined vehicles and are leveraging Nvidia’s software platforms. Some of these startups have monthly BEV sales in the $10,000 to $20,000 range with strong growth.

Regarding robotaxi design, Nvidia is the clear leader in supplying AV chips and AV software platforms to the robotaxi segment. Most of the robotaxi companies are using Nvidia Drive platforms with eight companies publicly listed as Nvidia customers. They are in testing mode with low current volumes and are years away from market takeoff.

Similar to robotaxi design, Nvidia is the leading AV chip and software platform supplier for autonomous trucks, though they are currently in testing and trial phases only — hence low volume users. Volumes in thousands per customers may happen around 2025.

OEM design wins

The traditional OEM brands have future volume potential for using Nvidia Drive platforms in new software–defined vehicle models as they are introduced. However, these OEMs will take five or more years to transition all their models to software–defined vehicles.

Mercedes–Benz will do so by 2024 and Jaguar Land Rover will get there by 2025. Eight more OEMs will use Nvidia Drive platforms for some of their domain ECUs, but with little public information.

Nvidia auto revenue

Auto revenue is a small portion of Nvidia’s total revenue — only 2.1 percent in 2021 for a total of $556 million. Its auto revenue declined from $700 million in 2020 due to OEM production restrictions as a result of chip shortages.

Nvidia’s revenue pipeline for the next six years is impressive at $11 billion compared to $8 billion in 2021. This indicates that Nvidia is achieving many design wins for its Drive platforms, such as those within its auto product segments including cars, trucks, robotaxis and EVs.

Closing remarks

Nvidia’s opportunities in the auto industry are increasing rapidly. Its six-year automotive revenue pipeline is currently at $11 billion, an increase of $3 billion from a year ago. There are multiple reasons for this rapid growth:

  • A few years ago, Nvidia’s design wins were primarily high-performance graphics products for infotainment systems.
  • AVs provided new opportunities but at low volumes and require a few more years of advancements until sales reach significant volumes. Advanced driver assistance system functionality will probably be a larger Nvidia opportunity than AVs until 2025 timeframe.
  • The move to software-defined vehicles is becoming Nvidia’s largest automotive opportunity as most OEMs are redesigning most of their models to software–centric architectures. This opens the door to Nvidia’s growing Drive software platform portfolio — both for embedded and cloud systems.
  • BEV startups are the biggest Nvidia Drive success story. They did not have restrictions from legacy ECU investments and started with a clean sheet for their software–defined vehicle architecture. Nvidia is capitalizing on this trend.
  • In summary, Nvidia is a software company that designs leading edge, software–centric compute chips and supports them with an expanding portfolio of embedded and cloud software platforms for automotive and other industries. Software platforms drive which features its chips and hardware systems get.

Nvidia is using its software–centric chips and growing collection of software platforms to realize strong growth in the auto industry’s software–defined vehicle era. Nvidia is especially competent in creating SDKs that its customers can use to create their own application software platforms — for automotive and other industries.





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