Nvidia builds its next-generation centralized car computer, ‘DRIVE Thor’

As autonomous vehicles gain increasing capabilities and broader adoption, these vehicles increasingly require powerful edge computing to deliver on their promises. At Nvidia’s Fall GTC event today, the company announced its new answer to this need: DRIVE Thor, a core in-car computer for autonomous driving, parking, infotainment, system monitoring, and occupant observation. DRIVE Thor replaces DRIVE Atlan (announced last year) in the roadmap and will be the successor to DRIVE Orin (currently in production).

RIDE Thor. Image courtesy of Nvidia.

Nvidia says the DRIVE Thor has over 2,000 teraflops of FP8 processing power – performance credited to Nvidia’s “next-gen” Grace CPU and GPU. DRIVE Thor will integrate an inference transformer engine into its GPU’s Tensor Cores – the first AV platform to feature one – which Nvidia says will enable up to a 9x acceleration in inference performance, with inference, of course, one represents a critical workload for self-driving vehicles.

DRIVE Thor – dubbed a “superchip” by Nvidia – will leverage the NVLink C2C connection and support multi-domain computing to separate the processing of crucial functions like automated driving and features like infotainment. Nvidia says the DRIVE Thor can run Linux, QNX and Android at the same time, and that multiple DRIVE Thor chips can be connected via the NVLink C2C connection. However, this type of partitioning is not necessary to take advantage of DRIVE Thor: users can devote all their computing power to a single function – like autonomous driving – if they wish.

“The amount of new technology in Thor is insane,” Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang said during his GTC keynote today. “Thor centralizes numerous computers while providing a leap in performance while reducing costs and power consumption. Today parking, active safety, driver monitoring, camera mirrors, clusters and infotainment are different computers. In the future, these functions will no longer be separate computers, but will be provided by software running on Thor and improving over time.”

“The shift to software-defined vehicles with centralized electronic architectures is accelerating, driving the need for more powerful and energy-efficient computing platforms,” ​​commented Sam Abuelsamid, senior research analyst at Guidehouse Insights.

The aforementioned “next-gen” GPU might have alerted you that DRIVE Thor isn’t coming anytime soon – it’s slated for availability in automakers’ 2025 models, like the DRIVE Atlan, which it replaces on the roadmap. ZEEKR, an electric vehicle company owned by Geely, has previously announced that DRIVE Thor will be included in its next-generation electric vehicles, which are planned for production in early 2025. According to Nvidia, ZEEKR will be the first customer for DRIVE Thor.

The ZEEKR 001, launched in late 2021. Image courtesy of Nvidia.

“ZEEKR users demand a luxurious experience that includes the latest technologies and security features,” said ZEEKR CEO An Conghui. “Nvidia DRIVE Thor will support our mission to provide cutting-edge technology that meets the needs of our customers and ensures ZEEKR stays at the forefront of tomorrow’s innovations.”

While ZEEKR will be the first, Nvidia has also collected a number of supporting comments from other transportation companies – for example, autonomous driving company WeRide. “WeRide has high expectations for Nvidia DRIVE Thor, which will deliver the superior computing power we are seeking for our WeRide One autonomous driving platform,” said Tony Han, CEO and Founder of WeRide. “This is a significant advance for WeRide in our efforts to provide a safe and scalable self-driving fleet that includes robotaxis, mini robobuses, robovans and robostreet sweepers.”

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