Toyota pushes into blockchain tech. Chevy Bolt teardown. Baidu partners with Bosch and Continental.
Of all the corporate players in autonomous vehicles, Nvidia has certainly been one of the greatest beneficiaries to date. The chipmaker has been praised for its prescience in repurposing its GPUs and developing platforms for deep learning applications (such as self-driving).
Nvidia counts numerous automakers and AV startups among its customers, and belief in the company’s dominance of this new market has fueled its meteoric share price growth:
However, others are also looking to fill the demand for machine learning processing power. Google has recently unveiled the second generation of its Tensor Processor Units (TPUs), while fellow tech giant Apple is now reportedly developing its own dedicated processor for self-driving cars and other AI use cases (see the blurb below).
Startups are also hard at work on application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) purpose-built for machine learning. Nervana was one before its acquisition by Intel last year, while others like Groq and Graphcore remain private.
These newcomers hope their ASICs can leapfrog the performance and efficiency of existing solutions like Nvidia’s to serve developers of compute-heavy machine learning applications (such as AVs).
Of course, rising demand for general-purpose automotive silicon has already driven chipmakers to blockbuster deals like Qualcomm’s acquisition of NXP. UBS’s recent teardown of a Chevy Bolt found a 6-10x increase in semiconductor content just from shifting to an electric powertrain (before even considering new connectivity and driver assistance tech).
The white-hot auto semi space is now driving NXP’s investors to push for a richer price than Qualcomm’s initial $47B bid. We covered this and much more in our 91-page webinar on the state of auto tech in 2017. Get the slides here.
Our webinar also covered the growing cohort of startups founded or cofounded by former Google car and Tesla engineers, who are drawing smart money investors but also significant legal and intellectual property scrutiny.
Uber, for its part, has just fired former Google AV engineer and Otto cofounder Anthony Levandowski. Levandowski was regarded as one of Silicon Valley’s top technical minds, but was dismissed for his refusal to hand over information relevant to Waymo’s ongoing lawsuit against Uber.
Mapping the mappers
The CBRE Group’s auto lab map provides visual context around the constant stream of new AV startup and innovation lab headlines. The self-driving complex has been a boon to the Bay Area real estate industry, as auto labs and startups hunt for office space as well as proving grounds for their vehicles.