NVIDIA Banks On Powerhouse Tegra X1 Processor To Join Self-Driving Car Race

Since its launch in the 90s, NVIDIA's core business has revolved around graphics units, either for gaming or professional use. In the past five years, the company has made a small dent in the mobile market, with its Tegra series of SoCs having been well-received overall. Now, the company desperately wants to see success in another hot market: automobiles.

In recent years, NVIDIA's Tegra processor has powered the infotainment systems in select cars, such as Audi's R8 and Tesla's Model S, and while the company has no intention of slowing its efforts there down, it wants to expand into autonomous driving, an area of the automotive market where interest is rapidly growing.

Tesla Model S
Tesla's Model S has NVIDIA's Tegra under-the-hood

At the company's GPU Technology Conference, held this past March, NVIDIA's CEO Jen-Hsun Haung repeated some of what we've heard before: it wants to be the leader where autonomous driving is concerned. At CES, it revealed its DRIVE system, built upon Tegra X1, which paves the way for autonomous driving. At GTC, Jen-Hsun invited Tesla's Elon Musk on stage to discuss autonomous driving, and during their chit-chat, Musk dropped a bombshell: he thinks that in time, regular cars could be banned, just because autonomous driving is so much safer. A market doesn't get much more lucrative than this.

Even if NVIDIA has proven technology, it doesn't mean that getting accepted by automakers en masse is guaranteed. There's already a ton of chips competition in the automotive market, especially from Texas Instruments, Qualcomm, Intel, and even Renesas. Despite the competition, NVIDIA expects to see its tech in more than 32 million vehicles by 2020.

NVIDIA has an uphill battle, but given all that the company has shown us in recent months, it stands to score some great success down-the-road.