Nvidia wants to put license-plate-sized data centers into self-driving taxis

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Nvidia Corp. unveiled license-plate-sized hardware Tuesday that harnesses the equivalent of 100 servers in a data center, which it hopes to use to advance self-driving taxis.

The hardware, dubbed Nvidia Drive PX Pegasus, specifically targets the self-driving taxi industry, where private firms such as Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc. duke it out across the globe for dominance. Currently the global ride-hailing market is about $36 billion, with the overall global taxi market topping $108 billion, according to a Goldman Sachs estimate. By 2030, Goldman predicts the global ride-hailing industry will grow to $285 billion.

Pegasus marks a ten-fold improvement over its predecessor and will tackle what’s known in industry jargon as “level five” vehicles — those that are entirely autonomous and do not have steering wheels, pedals or mirrors, Nvidia senior director of automotive Danny Shapiro said. The company made its Pegasus announcement at the GTC Europe tech conference in Munich, and said that in addition to boosting raw processing power of the hardware, the units will reduce the amount of energy consumed by “thousands” of watts, giving the self-driving cars greater range and drive time, among other improvements.

“Driverless cars will enable new ride- and car-sharing services,” Nvidia Chief Executive Jensen Huang said in a statement. “New types of cars will be invented, resembling offices, living rooms or hotel rooms on wheels. Travelers will simply order up the type of vehicle they want, based on their destination and activities planned along the way. The future of society will be reshaped.”

Nvidia NVDA, +2.26%  stock rose 2.3% to $185.39 during the regular session Monday. Investors have driven the stock up 73.7% this year, in large part because of the strong growth of its enterprise business units related to artificial intelligence. The S&P 500 index has risen 13.7% in the same period.

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Shapiro said Nvidia will release the Pegasus hardware by the second half of 2018.

Shapiro did not say what other companies it would be working with, but the new hardware could attract customers such as Uber and Lyft, as well as many of their smaller rivals. The Drive PX platform currently boasts 225 partners, more than 25 of which are working on self-driving taxis. Other tech titans, such as the Waymo unit of Alphabet Inc. GOOGL, -0.13% , are also aggressively developing self-driving vehicle technology.

When asked about the cost of each unit, Shapiro said the units had “no set price” because each application is unique and often requires software development in addition to the hardware.

See also: Nvidia strikes deals for AI-focused chips with Chinese tech firms

At GTC Europe, Nvidia also announced that it is working with Germany-based Deutsche Post DHL Group DPW, +1.03%   to outfit a fleet of electric light trucks with the ZF ProAI self-driving technology, which is based on Drive PX. As part of the announcement, Nvidia revealed a prototype unit and said Deutsche Post has incorporated an Nvidia DGX-1 “super computer” to train its neural networks, according to a statement.