Everything Investors Need to Know About NVIDIA's New Self-Driving Car Tech

Volvo's XC90 self-driving SUV's will enjoy 360 degree situational awareness thanks to NVIDIA DRIVE PX 2. Image source: Volvo.

It would seem to follow, then, that these automakers should have little hesitation continuing to move forward with DRIVE PX 2. To be sure, Volvo has already committed to be the first to implement DRIVE PX 2 using a fleet of self-driving Volvo XC90 SUV's which will hit the road in a "public trial" next year.

Meanwhile, don't be surprised if additional automakers announce their intent in short order; NVIDIA says the platform will be available to early developmental partners in second quarter of this year, and "generally available" by Q4.

As part of its end-to-end solution for partners, NVIDIA also supplies a "deep learning" platform called DIGITS, which helps train each system's deep neural network to better "understand" the vast quantities of data provided by the vehicles' sensors.

That's also not to say automakers haven't tried doing it on their own.

"Using NVIDIA's DIGITS deep learning platform, in less than four hours we achieved over 96 percent accuracy using Ruhr University Bochum's traffic sign database," explained Matthias Rudolph, Audi's director of Architecture Driver Assistance Systems. "While others invested years of development to achieve similar levels of perception with classical computer vision algorithms, we have been able to do it at the speed of light."

And according to Dragos Maciuca, technical director of Ford 's Research and Innovation Center, "Deep learning on NVIDIA DIGITS has allowed for a 30X enhancement in training pedestrian detection algorithms, which are being further tested and developed as we move them onto NVIDIA DRIVE PX."

NVIDIA's automotive growth and market potential

So where does that leave NVIDIA investors today?

As it stands, there are already more than 10 million vehicles on the road featuring NVIDIA technology -- though nearly all that technology is still in the form of high-tech infotainment modules powered by NVIDIA's GPUs.

But even absent a significant contribution from self-driving vehicle technology, automotive segment revenue still climbed 51% year over year to $79 million in NVIDIA's most recent quarter. And though NVIDIA hasn't specifically outlined expected automotive growth rates going forward, CEO Jen-Hsun Huang did insist during last quarter's conference call that they anticipate automotive will "continue to grow through next year and a couple years after that."

To be fair, the young state of the self-driving car industry makes it virtually impossible to forecast how growth will play out with any reasonable degree of certainty. So the most NVIDIA can do is continue to drive innovation to position itself firmly at the center of the trend.

Thankfully for shareholders, it seems that's exactly what NVIDIA is doing given the vast improvements it continues to deliver in self-driving vehicle technology with each passing year. In the end, that's why I remain convinced NVIDIA stock is a great bet for investors with the foresight and patience to buy early and profit as the self-driving car narrative unfolds.

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Steve Symington owns shares of NVIDIA. The Motley Fool recommends Ford and NVIDIA . Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days . We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy .

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