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The heart of tech

This article was published on July 5, 2017

    Self-driving cars are powered by video game technology

    Self-driving cars are powered by video game technology
    Rachel Kaser
    Story by

    Rachel Kaser

    Internet Culture Writer

    Rachel is a writer and former game critic from Central Texas. She enjoys gaming, writing mystery stories, streaming on Twitch, and horseback Rachel is a writer and former game critic from Central Texas. She enjoys gaming, writing mystery stories, streaming on Twitch, and horseback riding. Check her Twitter for curmudgeonly criticisms.

    One of the key ingredients to the self-driving car came from a sector you might not expect: video games.

    According to a report by The Washington Post, that high-end graphics processing unit in your computer or game console is the same tech used to power self-driving cars.

    The GPU began humbly, as a way of rendering game graphics. GPUs are capable of handling multiple processes in a way central processors simply aren’t. Now they’re replacing multiple standalone processors to handle functions in self-driving cars.

    GPUs were originally used in cars as part of the entertainment system. However, as vehicles become more sophisticated, it became apparent they were capable of handling things such as the brakes and the windows.

    Nowadays, GPUs can be used in self-driving cars to process thousands or even millions of pieces of information all at once. When attached to radar, cameras, or sensors, GPUs can detect objects in the path of a car, distinguish between them, and safely navigate around them, something single processors would be incapable of doing efficiently.

    Most recently, Nvidia, one of the world’s biggest GPU manufacturers, recently announced it was partnering with Baidu as part of the latter’s Apollo self-driving car initiative. This will bring its Drive PX AI hardware to Chinese car manufacturers, meaning more autonomous cars will have access to high-end processors.

    In the future, when you go to pick out your new car, you could be looking at options similar to the ones you face when you’re building a gaming PC.