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Nvidia chips to power Uber's self-driving fleet, VW vehicles

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Chipmaker Nvidia (NVDA) might be best known for its computer-graphics chips, but it wants to make inroads in an emerging market: self-driving vehicles. 

The chipmaker announced partnerships with ride-hailing service Uber and automaker Volkswagen at the tech convention CES. Nvidia's chips are already in use in Uber's fleet of modified Volvo XC90 SUVs, while Uber also uses Nvidia chips to run neural networks in its self-driving cars and trucks, according to CBS partner site CNET. Shares of Nvidia rose $5.22 to $220.62 in early trading. 

Uber has been testing self-driving cars in Pittsburgh since 2016, and it began a pilot in Phoenix the following year. So far, the self-driving cars have completed more than 50,000 passenger trips, Uber said in a statement. Data is essential for self-driving cars, which rely on sensors and 360-degree cameras to map the world outside the vehicle. Specialized hardware is necessary to crunch the data and plan a safe trip. 

"Developing safe, reliable autonomous vehicles requires sophisticated AI software and a high-performance GPU computing engine in the vehicle," said Eric Meyhofer, head of Uber Advanced Technologies Group, said in the statement. "Nvidia is a key technology provider to Uber as we bring scalable self-driving cars and trucks to market."

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For its part, Volkswagen said it is incorporating Nvidia's technology to improve driver safety. The chips will be used in its "reimagined" VW Microbus, which will have A.I.-infused technology to help drivers spot potential driving hazards, among other applications. The A.I. will also use facial recognition to unlock the car for its owner and rely on natural language processing for voice control, VW said.

"Artificial intelligence is revolutionizing the car," Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess said in a statement. "Autonomous driving, zero-emission mobility and digital networking are virtually impossible without advances in AI and deep learning. 

Other carmakers are also turning to Nvidia, CNET noted. Toyota said it would use the company's Drive PX autonomous driving platform last year. Nvidia also recently introduced the Pegasus, the latest version of the Drive PX platform, which can process more than 320 trillion operations per second.

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