Nvidia develops virtual testing platform for self-driving cars

The system is based on two servers with one simulating the vehicle's sensors and the other the vehicle's software that processes the simulation data.

Questions over the safety of self-driving cars are swirling in the wake of a fatality involving an Uber self-driving vehicle in Arizona.

In the same time, the software was put through 2.7 billion miles of testing in a virtual world, allowing algorithms to be quickly refined and tested against numerous variations of certain tricky real-world or hypothetical scenarios. "Anybody who thought that they could get by without supercomputers, and simulators, and just vast amounts of data collection, and all those engineers dedicated to making sure that this product is as safe as possible, you and I got to believe that sensibility has completely changed". The promise is to move self-driving auto testing off the public roads and into data centers before the technology is proven out. The first server powers the Nvidia DRIVE Sim, a software set that emulates a self-driving car's various sensors, including its cameras, lidar and radar. The on-demand auto pooling company is just one of many tech giants that uses Nvidia's computing platform to power its fleet of self-driving cars.

The simulation software generates "photoreal data streams", simulating things like varying weather conditions (rainstorms, snowstorms), blinding glare at different times of day, reduced visibility at nighttime, different terrains and road surfaces.

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Uber isn't the only company affected by this incident; the fatality puts heavy scrutiny on other autonomous vehicle initiatives. "NVIDIA's end-to-end platform is the right approach. DRIVE Constellation for virtually testing and validating will bring us a step closer to the production of self-driving cars".

DRIVE Constellation will be available to early access partners in the third quarter of 2018. For example, Intel Labs, together with the Toyota Research Institute and the Computer Vision Center in Barcelona, designed an open source driving simulator for training self-driving cars called CARLA (Car Learning to Act).

Nvidia had been testing driverless vehicle technology around the world in locations such as Santa Clara, Calif., where the company is headquartered, as well as in New Jersey, Japan and Germany.

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