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Autonomous

VW, Nvidia, Bosch Form Autonomous Vehicle Alliance

by Nathan Eddy
German auto giant Volkswagen, chipmaker Nvidia, automotive components supplier Continental, Ethernet technology specialist Aquantia and engineering and electronics giant Bosch are teaming up to form the Networking for Autonomous Vehicles (NAV) Alliance.

Created to help shape the future of in-vehicle networking technologies, the NAV founding members will focus on the core objectives such as developing an ecosystem for next-generation, multi-gig Ethernet automotive networking.

Bosch already supplies vehicle computers, central gateways and high-resolution cameras and sensors, while Continental has been investing in research and development for electrified and autonomous vehicles.

The volume of data generated by multiple types of sensors -- camera, radar, Lidar, ultrasound -- can reach 32TB every eight hours, and the alliance recognizes that level of data transfer requires a new breed of ultra-high-speed networks, including multi-gig Ethernet.

The alliance will create specifications for interoperability, security and reliability of the in-vehicle network, promote products and platforms adhering to the new specifications.

Multi-gigabit performance is a technology capable of finally breaking the 1Gbit/s barrier over existing cable infrastructure, and is in fact capable of delivering up to 10 Gbit/s to serve more demanding data processing environments.

The technology is the result of the NBase-T Alliance, a consortium of more than 45 industry players formed in 2014.

This next-generation networking architecture is based on an array of Electronic Control Units (ECUs), CPUs, GPUs, high-definition cameras, sensors, gateways and storage devices.

Nvidia's Xavier system-on-chip, which the company has begun delivering to customers this year after spending $2 billion on research and development over four years, will form the heart of a series of hardware-software platforms for different vehicles and applications.

Nvidia's Drive platform combines hardware with software and development tools that car and app companies use to develop their own products.

"Autonomous vehicles require an onboard AI supercomputer, architected for functional safety, capable of processing vast amounts of sensor data through redundant and diverse deep neural networks and algorithms," Nvidia's senior vice president of hardware development Gary Hicok wrote in a statement. "Multi-Gig Ethernet has a proven track record for interoperability and scalability, making it a natural choice for automotive connectivity, delivering critical data from the sensor suite to the vehicle's AI brain."

All these components must be connected through a high-speed, multi-gigabit Ethernet network that works to move data throughout the vehicle securely and reliably at all times.

The NAV is also working to establish standards body liaisons and build marketing activities to build awareness and educate the marketplace and users.

In addition, the NAV will be charged with expanding the Alliance membership roster in the coming months to include additional automotive suppliers and manufacturers.

Vehicle autonomy is rated on a scale from 0 to 5: At Level 1, a car can perform a single function, such as automatic braking, with the help of an advanced driver-assistance system (ADAS).

Level 5 autonomy represents the point at which a car can handle any driving situation without any human interaction whatsoever.

Nathan Eddy is a filmmaker and freelance journalist based in Berlin. Follow him on Twitter @dropdeaded209_LR.

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