Tag Archives: nvidia

Self driving cars will need wireless broadband, but not for heavy duty computing

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There will be a flood of bits swirling through self driving cars, and virtually all of that data will be processed by onboard computers, even where 5G networks are deployed.

“Autonomous vehicles are software defined”, said Deepu Talla, vice president of autonomous machines at Nvidia, a high end chip maker, speaking at CES. That software will run on onboard computers, and won’t be processed served from the cloud via mobile broadband networks, he said. There are four reasons for that:

  1. Latency. If you’re in a moving car, the round trip for data takes too long.
  2. Bandwidth. Cars will continually generate huge amounts of data, particularly from the many high definition video cameras they’ll use to monitor where they’re going and what’s around them.
  3. Connectivity. It’s not always there, particularly in rural areas, but even in cities there are momentary holes and bottlenecks in network coverage. Not big enough, perhaps, for a human to perceive but enough to delay machine to machine communication for critical milliseconds.
  4. Privacy. Although it’s not as big of a concern for cars as for, say, medical devices, it’s still a limiting factor.

5G won’t solve the problem, Talla said. Latency may decrease but it will still be there and 5G’s greater bandwidth will be eaten up by greater demand. “the amount of data will increase too”, he said.

Continental, a German automotive technology company, plans to scale up in-car local area networks to 10 Gbps to handle that load. Most of it will be video streams from high resolution cameras – 8 megapixels – that have to processed and analysed in real time. Each car will have at least four cameras, and possibly more. Plus radar and lidar, and video streams transmitted directly from cars up ahead.

Mobile broadband will still play a role. Live connections to the cloud are yet another source of data, particularly for error detection, debugging and instant repair. Connectivity will be required for cars to reach Level 5, the top level of autonomous operation, according to Continental staff who briefed industry analysts during CES. At that level, the car does everything, everywhere, without the need for human monitors. That’s the point where you can take a nap in the back seat while driving to work.

NVIDIA CEO Huang gets the vision thing

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It was a little odd watching the CEO of NVIDIA, Jen-Hsun Huang, spend most of his press conference time editing photos, remoting from one device to another and playing computer games. NVIDIA is a chip maker, not a game publisher or software company or computer manufacturer. But his roundabout approach was a dramatic way of proving the power of his chips and the platforms they support.
The hour long demo session drove home the point that NVIDIA powers consumer electronics products, not computers for the workplace, although performance is comparable for many – most – personal applications.
NVIDIA makes chips that power a big slice of the non-iPad tablet market. The company is putting thousands of engineers to work supporting both Ice Cream Sandwich – an attempt to unify the disparate flavors of Android into a single market for app developers – and Windows 8.
With worldwide tablet sales approaching 100 million units, Huang called it the “fastest growing device in consumer electronics history,” and said that non-iPad tablets are taking an ever larger share of that market, currently at 40%.
NVIDIA’s flagship CPU is the Tegra 3, a four plus one core ARM processor. Four of the cores run user applications, the fifth manages processes and housekeeping functions that are usually left to auxiliary chips, or not handled at all. Tagged the “ninja core” by Huang, it manages power consumption and touch screen processing, among other chores.
It’s powering a wide range of devices here at CES, including a 7-inch tablet from ASUS that runs Android and has a $249 target price point. Tegra, and its brothers in ARM, are increasingly integrated into vehicles too, running dashboard and entertainment interfaces. Huang calls the automotive industry “a brand new consumer electronics segment.”
Huang is not the first to say it. But he makes the point better than most, communicating a coherent and seamless vision of where the consumer electronics industry is heading.

Ballmer won’t let the door hit him on the way out

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Microsoft is pulling out of CES after this year, presumably because the show doesn’t support its corporate and brand marketing goals. CEO Steve Ballmer’s farewell keynote was an hour-plus company sales pitch delivered at the top of his lungs, with a parade of product demonstrations by his executive team.
It was if he was saying “here’s why we don’t need you guys”. At least he didn’t mention the horse we rode in on.
Top of the list of reasons why Ballmer is happy following Apple out of CES is Windows 8. “There’s nothing more important” to Microsoft’s future, he said.
He and his team demoed the new Metro user interface. Assuming it will do what they say it will do, it’ll take it a step further down the Apple user interface roadmap than Apple itself has yet to go.
The concept is to have a seamless UI experience across PCs, game and video boxes and mobile devices, including phones and tablets. Apple is moving in that direction, but is doing it with two separate operating systems, iOS and OS X. Windows 8 is intended to do the job of both.
Microsoft continues to edge away from its former near-monogamous relationship with Intel. Ballmer said Windows 8 is designed to run just fine on x86 chips, from both Intel and AMD, but it’s built from the ground up to support ARM processors from NVIDIA, Texas Instruments and Qualcomm too.
Ballmer acknowledged that Microsoft is under pressure, particularly in mobile products, but said “competition is a great thing and I’m glad we have Windows”. Custer might have said the same about the 7th Cavalry.