Why NVIDIA Should Build a Smarter Car (Actually Two of Them)

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I spent the week at NVIDIA’s GTC (GPU Technology Conference) and it was a showcase for everything from high resolution VR to self-driving cars. On stage NVIDIA’s iconic CEO Jen-Hsun Huang indicated his firm would, with respect to cars, do everything but build one. I think he is wrong. In fact, I think NVIDIA should build two cars—but I do agree it shouldn’t compete with companies like Tesla to do it. NVIDIA should partner with them.

Let me explain.

Pushing Car Companies into The Future

One of the automobile industry’s biggest problems is that even though cars have become rolling computers, the automotive industry still operates largely the same as it has for decades. It is very slow to change, very slow to patch, and still ship cars with technology that can be over two decades old. What is needed is some way to drive these firms to a much more agile model, otherwise they are likely to be displaced by younger firms like Tesla which operate at far higher speeds. Tesla is currently the only company that has ever received over 100,000 preorders for a car that hasn’t even been officially introduced (or seen) yet.

So the first car would be one that would showcase what an ideal car would look like and have 10 years out. Using NVIDIA’s new Iray technology and VR, NVIDIA could create a virtual car that would address the security, safety, design, and likely modular aspects of the car of tomorrow. It could be the ideal Uber car if folks believe that by 2025—and many do—that we will no longer own cars but use them as a cloud service. It could be a flying car if they believe the problems with power storage and safety can be addressed; and it could even be an amphibious car if they believe we are going to be up to our armpits in melted glaciers. It would not only showcase what NVIDIA’s vision of the future is, but how its and other coming technology would be used to create something that would far better blend the technology of tomorrow into a workable solution.

Finally, it would showcase the true value of VR and Iray, which is the ability to create virtual products that actually look real.

Developer’s Platform

The Tesla car line is the most advanced currently in the market. Effectively this is an advanced computer with wheels, and this firm is already doing more with autonomous driving in its cars than any other firm. In the car, particularly the new Model 3, it has a prominent tablet that rivals the iPad. But, what Tesla doesn’t have that Apple has is developers. Tesla doesn’t yet have a developer platform that third parties can use, or a curated store where safe applications can be bought by Tesla drivers.

In a technology world often defined by advances by small companies, even Tesla isn’t getting full benefit. So the second car that NVIDIA should create, in partnership with a car company like Tesla, is a car development platform. This is actually a rolling testbed so that developers can explore their ideas with regard to car control, in-car integrated entertainment, advanced car security and safety, and any variety of apps.

Far better than the cobbled together test beds that everyone currently uses, this car would be designed to be easily wired, easily dismantled, and be very modular so that it could be converted to anything from a test bed for a sedan to one for a sports car or truck.

With the new laws opening up the market for small-run automobiles, this could also have a secondary market for small car builders allowing them to deliver unique vehicles for personal or industrial use using these same building blocks and even enable a class of modular, industrial vehicles that could be modified on-the-fly for a variety of uses, and upgraded over time—reducing waste.

Wrapping Up

So, I think NVIDIA should build two cars both designed to change the future dramatically from what it otherwise will be. The first a virtual prototype, likely a line of them, showcasing what cars will look like and have ten years out, and the other a rolling test bed for developers and small-run manufacturers to use to both participate in car development and create cars that would otherwise not exist.

One of my favorite saying is that the way to predict the future is to invent it, NVIDIA is in a unique position to invent the future of the automobile. My hope is part of that invention will be at least one car that will fly autonomously.

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About Author

As President and Principal Analyst of the Enderle Group, Rob provides regional and global companies with guidance in how to create credible dialogue with the market, target customer needs, create new business opportunities, anticipate technology changes, select vendors and products, and practice zero dollar marketing. For over 20 years Rob has worked for and with companies like Microsoft, HP, IBM, Dell, Toshiba, Gateway, Sony, USAA, Texas Instruments, AMD, Intel, Credit Suisse First Boston, ROLM, and Siemens.

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