Mercedes Readies Next-Gen “Software-Defined” Cars
Mercedes-Benz is teaming up with semiconductor giant Nvidia on a new electronics architecture that promises to enable a host of advanced features—with a focus on connectivity and automated driving systems—and allow customers to make continuous upgrades throughout a vehicle’s life.
The platform, which is built on Nvidia’s Drive AGX Orin system-on-a-chip technology, will be introduced in 2024. All Mercedes cars and trucks eventually will incorporate the architecture.
“Revolutionizing” Car Ownership
If you’re wondering how big a deal this is, consider what Daimler Chairman Ola Kallenius and his counterpart at Nvidia, Jensen Huang, said during a virtual press conference from their respective headquarters in Stuttgart and Santa Clara, Calif.
The goal, they say, is to develop the “most sophisticated and advanced computing architecture” ever deployed for vehicle applications.
"This new platform will become an efficient, centralized and software-defined system in our future Mercedes-Benz vehicles," Kallenius says. “Nvidia’s AI platform will help us streamline our journey towards autonomous driving.”
Adds Huang: “Together, we're going to revolutionize the car ownership experience, making the vehicle software programmable and continuously upgradable via over-the-air updates.”
Mercedes will standardize Nvidia's Orin platform and sensor suite on all future vehicles—from tiny city cars to the top-of-the-line S-Class sedan. The carmaker also will license the complete Nvidia Drive Software stack.
Nvidia Orin system-on-a-chip (Image: Nvidia)
The so-called “software-defined” architecture, which is expected to include a handful of domain controllers in place of more than 100 individual ECUs, will allow over-the-air updates for a variety of safety, convenience and performance systems. Tesla already offers such capabilities, and most other carmakers are starting to introduce OTA updates, which for the most part have been limited to infotainment-based functions.
The new Mercedes-Nvidia system promises to provide a more comprehensive mix of free, paid and subscription-based features, including services from third-party vendors.
The partners, which have been working together since early last year, also plan to jointly develop AI-based Level 2/3 automated vehicle applications. This includes “address-to-address” automated driving—through cities, on highways or a combination of both—as well as Level 4 automated parking functions, according to the partners.
These systems also will be updateable as improvements are made and new capabilities are added. This will allow owners to take advantage of next-generation lane-keeping, road sign detection and voice-recognition technologies as reliability and functionality improve.
There also will be headroom to add features that haven’t been invented yet, Nvidia says, with each new Mercedes model supported by a team of AI experts and software engineers “continuously developing, refining and enhancing the car over its lifetime."
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