Nvidia suspends driverless program as it launches virtual reality testing platform

U.S. technology company Nvidia, which sold some of the computer hardware to Uber for its self-driving technology, announced it has halted autonomous vehicle testing in the wake of the crash that killed a pedestrian in Arizona. At the same time, during its GPU Technology Conference, founder and CEO Jansen Huang revealed the creation of a cloud-based system for testing driverless cars in a virtual reality environment.

“We are temporarily suspending the testing of our self-driving cars on public roads to learn from the Uber incident. Our global fleet of manually driven data-collection vehicles continues to operate,” said the company through a spokesperson.

Nvidia has been testing its own self-driving cars in New Jersey, California, Japan, and Germany.

The Nvidia DRIVE Constellation is a computing platform based on two different servers. The first server runs Nvidia DRIVE Sim software to simulate a self-driving vehicle’s sensors, such as cameras, lidar and radar. The second contains a powerful Nvidia DRIVE Pegasus AI car computer that runs the complete autonomous vehicle software stack and processes the simulated data as if it were coming from the sensors of a car driving on the road.

Nvidia has said that using simulation, some 300,000 miles can be driven in five hours, essentially every paved road in the United States simulated in just two days.

DRIVE Sim software generates photoreal data streams to create a vast range of different testing environments. It can simulate different weather such as rainstorms and snowstorms; blinding glare at different times of the day, or limited vision at night; and all different types of road surfaces and terrain. Dangerous situations can be scripted in simulation to test the autonomous car’s ability to react, without ever putting anyone in harm’s way.

The Nvidia DRIVE platform, in its different variants, is now used by over 370 companies developing self-driving technology, including automakers, car-sharing companies and those making self-driving hardware, such as sensors, said Huang at the conference.

The DRIVE Constellation system will be available to early access partners in the third quarter of 2018.

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