When I attend automotive technology trade shows there is always a presence from advanced computer tech company, NVIDIA and, usually, Danny Shapiro. Auto Futures talked with the Senior Director of Automotive at NVIDIA to learn his philosophy on the future of cars and how his company is helping shape the future of driving.
NVIDIA is a twenty-five-year-old brand. It started out in the gaming world with 3D gaming and it was also in professional CAD design systems. Shapiro has been part of the 3D Graphics industry his entire career and has an engineering background. In fact, Shapiro has a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering and computer science degree from Princeton University.
For years, automakers used CAD for car designs and videos to render realistic simulations. Then design systems grew with computer simulations of wind tunnels and crash simulations for designing cars using NVIDIA processors.
“About 10 years ago, consumers were starting to use smartphones and tablets, but their cars’ screens were out of date. Due to this, NVIDIA started bringing infotainment graphics into the cockpit of automakers such as Tesla and Audi,” says Shapiro.
NVIDIA perfected a GPU (Graphic Processor Unit) component for fast processing, enabling apps inside the car and, from that, perfected more AI processors to be able to handle cameras and radar. Four years ago, the technology specialist launched the NVIDIA Drive Platform.
“At NVIDIA, we look at how to improve products and integrate them with the automakers such as engineering and designing new products that have never been done before,” says Shapiro, “Working for NVIDIA is like having your own Silicon Valley accelerator.” The company is always looking at new opportunities and also supports customers with substantial research. It invested 28,000 engineering years and 7,000 employees to develop the NIVIDA Drive hardware and software.
As Senior Director of Automotive, Shapiro works as the spokesperson, marketing for product lines and web collaboration.
“NVIDIA is a great company. It’s exciting to be in the space where things have never been done before, such as using AI to create the brain that will replace a driver,” says Shapiro. “There are huge benefits to enable self-driving technology.” He says that self-driving technology will have a positive effect on road safety all over the world, free up time and give more people access to mobility.
“I think we’re a pioneer in new technology. We have a fleet of self-driving cars to a fully understand the problem to serve our customers with test vehicles,” adds Shapiro.
It’s working with Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo and new AI startup Zoox. A year ago, NVIDIA announced that it would work with self-driving specialist Aurora to bring a new modular and scalable Drive platform to help it develop autonomous vehicles.
“I think the latest surveys about people’s fear of autonomous driving will change when they have the opportunity to experience it,” says Shapiro.
Shapiro used to travel all over the world but, now that the team has grown, they have teams in Japan, Germany and Israel. He spends a lot of time on the phone at odd hours of the day to speak to global NVIDIA offices. NVIDIA created GPU Technology Conferences (GTC) where their partners get to show each other the breakthrough technology they have developed. The company creates not only the processors for cars but is developing the cloud for data to enable workflow and track information.
The license plate on Shapiro’s car says ‘AICAR’. During his 40 K (25 miles) commute to work, much of the time he uses Autopilot.
“What’s nice about Autopilot is that I don’t care if I’m in a traffic jam,” says Shapiro of his Tesla Model S. However, he notes that he still has to pay attention. NVIDIA has been working with Tesla for the last 8 years and was selected to supply the company’s Autopilot 2.5 technology.