Mercedes-Benz, Nvidia to build software-defined architecture for future fleet
On the heels of the news that it is suspending development cooperation in automated driving with BMW Group (https://bit.ly/2Yo1tWm), Mercedes-Benz AG has wasted no time moving on, partnering with accelerated computing leader Nvidia to create what they say is a revolutionary in-vehicle computing system and AI (artificial intelligence) computing infrastructure. Ola Källenius, CEO of Mercedes-Benz Cars, and Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang, announced the R&D cooperation in a live stream media event on June 23rd from Stuttgart and Santa Clara.
Starting in 2024, the results will be rolled out across the fleet of next-generation Mercedes-Benz vehicles, enabling them with upgradable automated driving functions. Working together, the companies plan to develop what they say will be the most sophisticated and advanced computing architecture ever deployed in an automobile, implying they will be leapfrogging Tesla, the recognized industry leader in the field of automotive software.
The new software-defined architecture, to be built on the Nvidia Drive platform, will be standard in Mercedes-Benz’ next-generation fleet. A primary feature will be the ability to automate driving of regular routes from address to address, in addition to numerous future safety and convenience applications. Customers will be able to purchase and add capabilities, software applications, and subscription services through over-the-air software updates during the life of the car.
“It’s clear from our extensive discussions with Ola and his team that we share a common vision of the automobile of the future,” said Jensen Huang, Founder and CEO of Nvidia. “Every future Mercedes-Benz with the Nvidia Drive system will come with a team of expert AI and software engineers continuously developing, refining, and enhancing the car over its lifetime.”
“Jensen and I know one another well and we have spent a great deal of time talking about the goals and potential of next- generation vehicle computing architecture,” added Ola Källenius, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz AG. “This new platform will become an efficient, centralized, and software-defined system in our future Mercedes-Benz vehicles. Nvidia’s AI computing architecture will help us streamline our journey towards autonomous driving.”
The automated driving functions in future Mercedes-Benz cars will be powered by Nvidia’s next-generation Drive platform using the Orin system-on-chip based on the recently announced Ampere supercomputing architecture. The platform includes a full system software stack designed for automated driving AI applications.
The two companies will jointly develop applications that include SAE Level 2 and 3, as well as automated parking functions (up to Level 4). They say that the new system’s capabilities will have a total focus on safety. As the technology and regulatory framework develop, it will be possible for every car to be updated over the air to enable new automated driving, convenience, and other safety features.
Both companies will be using Drive infrastructure solutions to enable data-driven and deep-neural-network development to handle the requirements of the regions and operational domains where the cars will be available. The collaboration is promised to unlock new disruptive business models, with customers being able to purchase features and services at point-of-sale and unlocking value throughout the vehicles’ lifecycles.
In a media prebrief on the new collabroation, Danny Shapiro, Nvidia’s Senior Director of Automotive, added that the high-end Drive AGX Orin platform with 200 TOPS (trillion operations per second), with the world’s highest performing AV processor, along with surround sensors, will be standard in every next-gen [Mercedes-Benz] vehicle. It will be building on the complete Drive software stack to enable address-to-address autopilot, valet parking, and many more future applications still to be imagined.
“What is significant here is that both sides are bringing IP to this program,” said Shapiro. “Mercedes-Benz will license Nvidia’s Drive software and be able to develop all kinds of new applications and services and make [their] cars truly unique in the market.
“The engineering teams of Mercedes-Benz and Nvidia have been collaborating on a number of programs, and this [collaboration] really takes it to the next level,” added Shapiro. “We will have thousands of engineers in Germany and in Silicon Valley working together to bring this to life.”
At the prebrief, it was also confirmed that Mercedes-Benz will still introduce a Level 3 automated driving system in 2021.
And more insight was given regarding the mothballed BMW/Daimler cooperation. Bernard Wardin, International Digital Vehicle & Future Technologies Communications, Spokesperson for Autonomous Driving and AI, Mercedes-Benz AG, said that detailed talks that followed the initial collaboration announcement revealed that the two companies’ AV timing was not matching up as well as was hoped. BMW wanted to stick with its current technology roadmap for a longer time and Mercedes-Benz wanted to update its system starting in 2024.
“But that doesn’t mean that we cannot pick up this partnership at any time in the future, but for now we have put it on hold,” Wardin said.