NVIDIA Drive upshifts to Ampere GPUs for a smoother self-driving roadmap

During its GTC 2020 keynote today, NVIDIA finally pulled the veil back on its Ampere GPU architecture – at least somewhat. While details about Ampere are still slim, we do know that the company plans to move its Drive platform to new Orin SoCs that feature Ampere GPUs. This not only has big implications for the high-end autonomous systems that NVIDIA Drive already focused on, but it allows the platform to break into advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) as well.

In a blog post today, NVIDIA explains that its new Drive range starts at an NCAP 5-star ADAS and goes to the Drive AGX Pegasus robotaxi platform. That ADAS is a Windshield NCAP camera that's based on a single Orin SoC. The end result is a system that uses 5W of power and is capable of 10 TOPS of performance, so this is definitely a lot less powerful than the level 2+ autonomous driving applications NVIDIA was focusing on before.

While the Drive platform is expanding into more entry-level offerings today, it sounds like its high-end autonomous products will also benefit from the switch to Ampere GPUs. We'll see them featured in the company's Pegasus robotaxi platform, which is a level 5 autonomous system.

In that Pegasus system, there'll be two Orin SoCs and two Ampere-based GPUs pumping out 2,000 TOPS of performance. NVIDIA says this will support higher resolution sensors and is enough to power the deep neural networks needed for fully autonomous driving. In the end, NVIDIA claims that the Ampere architecture "offers the largest leap in performance within the eight generations of NVIDIA GPUs – boosting performance by up to 6x."

It's going to be quite some time before we see these new Orin SoCs featured in vehicles – NVIDIA says that the chips will begin sampling next year and won't be available for automakers to utilize until 2022.