NVIDIA unveils DRIVE Thor – a centralised car computer

23rd September 2022
Sheryl Miles

NVIDIA has introduced NVIDIA DRIVE Thor, its next-gen centralised computer for safe and secure autonomous vehicles.

DRIVE Thor, which achieves up to 2,000 teraflops of performance, unifies intelligent functions – including automated and assisted driving, parking, driver and occupant monitoring, digital instrument cluster, in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) and rear-seat entertainment – into a single architecture for greater efficiency and lower overall system cost. 

The next-gen superchip comes packed with the cutting-edge AI capabilities first introduced in the NVIDIA Hopper Multi-Instance GPU architecture, along with the NVIDIA Grace CPU and NVIDIA Ada Lovelace GPU.

DRIVE Thor with MIG support for graphics and compute enables IVI and advanced driver-assistance systems to run domain isolation, which allows concurrent time-critical processes to run without interruption.

Available for automakers’ 2025 models, it will accelerate production roadmaps by bringing higher performance and advanced features to market in the same timeline.

“Advances in accelerated computing and AI are moving at lightspeed,” said Jensen Huang, Founder and CEO of NVIDIA. “DRIVE Thor is the superhero of centralised compute, with lightning-fast performance to deliver continuously upgradable, safe and secure software-defined supercomputers on wheels.”

Signalling the transportation industry’s support for supercomputing architecture, Geely-owned automaker, ZEEKR, announced it will integrate DRIVE Thor on its centralised vehicle computer for its next-gen intelligent electric vehicles, starting production in early 2025.

ZEEKR CEO An Conghui said: “ZEEKR users demand a luxury experience that includes the latest technology and safety features. NVIDIA DRIVE Thor will support our mission of providing cutting-edge technology that fulfils the needs of our customers and ensures ZEEKR remains at the forefront of tomorrow’s innovations.”

DRIVE Thor supports multi-domain computing, isolating functions for automated driving and IVI. Typically, dozens of electric control units are distributed throughout a vehicle to power individual functions. With DRIVE Thor, manufacturers can efficiently consolidate many functions on a single system-on-a-chip (SoC), which eases supply constraints and simplifies vehicle-design development, resulting in significantly lower cost, less weight, and fewer cables.

DRIVE Thor AV platform incorporates an inference transformer engine, a component of the Tensor Cores within NVIDIA GPUs. With this engine, DRIVE Thor can accelerate inference performance of transformer deep neural networks by up to 9x, which is paramount for supporting the complex AI workloads associated with self-driving.

Another advantage of DRIVE Thor is its 8-bit floating point (FP8) capability. Typically, developers lose neural-network accuracy when moving from 32-bit FP data to 8-bit integer format. DRIVE Thor features 2,000 teraflops of FP8 precision, allowing the transition to 8-bit without sacrificing accuracy.

The superchip also uses the latest NVLink-C2C chip interconnect technology, while running multiple operating systems. The advantage of the NVLink-C2C is its ability to share, schedule and distribute work across the link with minimal overhead. This equips automakers with the compute headroom and flexibility to build software-defined vehicles that are continuously upgradeable through secure, over-the-air software updates.

“The shift to software-defined vehicles with centralised electronic architectures is accelerating, driving a need for more powerful and more energy-efficient compute platforms,” said Sam Abuelsamid, Principal Research Analyst at Guidehouse Insights. “The virtualisation, high-speed data transfer and massive processing performance of NVIDIA DRIVE Thor can enable safer vehicles, better user experiences and potential new revenue streams.”

DRIVE Thor is designed for the highest levels of functional safety and has a unified approach across its entire system, from the data centre to the fleet.

Safety is incorporated into every step of the company’s development process – including design, production and vehicle operation.

The DRIVE Thor SoC and AGX board are developed to comply with ISO 26262 standards. The software stack is designed for both ISO 26262 and ASPICE compliance. The Thor SoC and software are also designed and produced in alignment with ISO 21434, which provides the pathway for compliance with regulatory security such as UNECE Regulation 155.

DRIVE Thor replaces NVIDIA DRIVE Atlan and will be the follow-on to DRIVE Orin, which is currently in production and delivers 254 TOPS of performance.

Broad Industry Support for DRIVE Thor

Existing DRIVE Orin customers can take advantage of the platform’s scalable architecture to transition current development efforts to DRIVE Thor. Developers can reap the benefits of their software investments across multiple product generations as they design for future production roadmaps.

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