Self-driving cars are just four years away, says NVIDIA

The Ford fully autonomous Fusion Hybrid research vehicle on streets of Dearborn, Michigan. (Image courtesy of Ford Motor Co.)

The CEO of graphics-processing chipmaker-turned-automotive technology supplier NVIDIA predicts that the level of artificial intelligence required to make fully self-driving vehicles is four years away.

“It will take no more than four years to have fully autonomous cars on the road. How long it takes for the vast majority of cars on the road to become that, it really just depends,” NVIDIA chief Jensen Huang said in front of media in Taipei.

The prediction is perfectly in-line with promises by automakers that would put self-driving cars on the road by 2021. NVIDIA has seen its market value skyrocket in the past few years, as more and more carmakers like Tesla and Volvo use its proprietary sensors and chipsets as part of their advanced driving safety systems.

In a related announcement, the Cologne Institute for Economic Research in Cologne, Germany, analyzed patents filed with the World Intellectual Property Organization since the start of the decade. Of the 5,839 self-driving-related patents filed since 2010, more than half were filed by carmakers themselves, and roughly a third belong to longstanding suppliers like Bosch and Continental.

In total, just over half of the patents belong to German companies. Of the top 10 companies in terms of patents filed, six are German, and just three are American, with Ford and GM cracking the top five, and Google coming in at 10th as the only non-automotive company listed. As a whole, Germany is pushing to become the leader in the self-driving arena, and earlier this year became the first country to pass ethics regulations surrounding the emerging technology.

While the existence of patents doesn’t necessarily indicate how close a self-driving car is to becoming market-ready, there is an ever-growing list of companies making predictions within a similar time frame. NVIDIA’s CEO’s prognostication is simply the latest data point that aligns with the rest of those-in-the-know.

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