Nvidia: 'Your car is your most powerful computing device'

Nvidia: 'Your car is your most most powerful computing device'
The car's the star for Nvidia

When Apple announced that it was getting into the auto business with CarPlay, it cemented what many already knew: the car is the next big stomping ground when it comes to technology.

Some manufacturers have been sounding the car klaxon for a few years now, however.

One of these is Nvidia. A number of car companies have been utilising its graphical prowess for some time now and, as TechRadar found out, in-car entertainment is only a tiny part of what is achievable when you sprinkle a little bit of computational power over the whole car eco-system.

"I continue to be amazed with the car sector - you see pretty much every advertisement for automobiles and it is all digital," said Greg Estes, Nvidia's vice-president of marketing for the Professional Visualisation and Design business.

"Every ad, every poster... images you see on these ads can be rendered in real time and you can zoom in and out of them and interact with them."

Making the car

Using Nvidia's Quadro processor, companies such as Mercedes are taking this CG world of car ads and going a step further – using more precise modelling to help with the pre-production process of its car manufacturing. But this does mean that significant changes have to be made.

"It is one thing to make the design of the car look good but it is another thing to 'build' the car from the design and be able to render that in real time," Estes explained.

"You are not just looking at a car going 'oh this will be the general shape', they are looking at doing away with physical prototypes all together."

The reason for this, according to Estes, is that replacing a few of the steps in the physical pre-production process with digital variants will not only save a company money it will get a car to market a lot faster.

"If you can get rid of physical prototypes, if you at least move one or two iterations away from that you get a car to market a year faster, which changes everything," said Estes.

To do this, though, you need some powerful processing to make sure the digital prototype is the best it can be.

At GDC this year, Honda will be showing some of the work it is doing with Nvidia's Iray technology and Estes explained that a lot more is being done with Nvidia's Quadro and Tesla technologies.

Using these technologies it is hoped that a point can be reached where computer car creation simulates what happens when you make the tiniest of changed to a car's design in real time.

"Once you start doing fluid dynamics the Holy Grail would be for you to do the simulation and the graphics at the same time," said Estes.

"What you want to do is have the design of a car, do the fluid dynamic and understand that if you moved a side view mirror by 8cm it could give you 10 more miles per gallon, or change any number of things.

"We are working with our software partners, in the case of this, Fluent to make sure that they can take advantage of our GPUs."

Marc Chacksfield

Marc Chacksfield is the Editor In Chief, Shortlist.com at DC Thomson. He started out life as a movie writer for numerous (now defunct) magazines and soon found himself online - editing a gaggle of gadget sites, including TechRadar, Digital Camera World and Tom's Guide UK. At Shortlist you'll find him mostly writing about movies and tech, so no change there then.