Could NVIDIA Automotive help Android shake up an entire industry?


Imagine your car dashboard.

NVDIA Car Dash

Now imagine using your computer or smartphone to customize everything about it.

NVIDIA Car Dash Edit

This is just the tip of the iceberg – more below – but listen to NVIDIA’s CEO discuss changes coming to a car driven by you in the near future:

That’s just the surface of NVIDIA’s innovation plans for the automotive industry. The above is called “Project Mercury” and allows automotive manufacturers to adjust, iterate, and offer live views of their cars incorporating an infinite number of colors, textures, and designs. Soon, NVIDIA hopes, your dashboard will be a lively canvas that looks and function more like your smartphone home screen: completely customizable.

The start of a new Automotive Era?

For years I’ve been trumpeting Android’s movement and eventual ubiquity in industries beyond mobile, but similar to mobile. Industries that had iterative advancements but whose oligopoly prevented dramatic improvements across the board. The two industries with the most potential: television and automotive.

Television’s technological renaissance may be a couple years away with so many licensing issues and vested interests creating an environment toxic to collaboration. Say what you want, but there isn’t a Steve Jobs around to pull off the impossible music-to-iTunes counterpart for the television industry. The auto industry, on the other hand, is chomping at the bit for more bytes.

NVIDIA Automotive Overview

Just as Google announced the Open Handset Alliance en route to revolutionizing the mobile industry, they’ve just announced the Open Automotive Alliance which could likely be the catalyst for a similar revolution seen in vehicles around the world. The founding members of that alliance are Audi, GM, Honda, Hyundai, and NVIDIA.

You might not know it but NVIDIA has been a player in the automotive industry for years and not just because they seem to lug bad ass sports cars to almost every major technology show on the planet (CES, MWC, etc… ). This year, though, NVIDIA is making some pivotal adjustments and announcements to make their presence in the Open Automotive Alliance well known.

The Real Smart Car: Advanced Driver Assistance

We’ve known for years now that Google is working on self driving cars; they’ve even been spotted in the wild. How in the heck does this technology actually work? You can guarantee that there is a whole lot going on in the background, and my guess – almost anonymously confirmed with announcement of the OAA launch partners – is that NVIDIA technology has a hand in it.

You know how your smartphone and camera offer live face recognition while recording video, following your subject around like white on rice? NVIDIA’s Advanced Driver Assistance technology does exactly that but instead of following faces, follows vehicles, obstacles, road signs, and more. Take a glimpse of it in action.

Don’t worry: this isn’t video you would be following live on your car dashboard. This is a reference design allowing automotive partners to track the various algorithms and see them in action. They use this to build the systems that eventually become Advanced Driver Assistance services, for example automatically initiating the brakes when a vehicle in front of you slams on theirs. Or perhaps noting the speed limit on a road sign has changed and automatically adjusting your cruise control to compensate.

Where is Automotive Tech headed?

We aren’t exactly flying around in Deloreans, or even getting driven around with google robot butlers (robutlers? anyone?), but automotive tech is poised to see strong leaps and growth in the coming 3 years. Much of that will be based on the announcements and changes happening this year. Watch the NVIDIA CEO discuss his company’s position on those changes and stay tuned to Phandroid for much in Android automotive from CES 2014.

How would you feel about having Android prevalent in your next vehicle?

Rob Jackson
I'm an Android and Tech lover, but first and foremost I consider myself a creative thinker and entrepreneurial spirit with a passion for ideas of all sizes. I'm a sports lover who cheers for the Orange (College), Ravens (NFL), (Orioles), and Yankees (long story). I live in Baltimore and wear it on my sleeve, with an Under Armour logo. I also love traveling... where do you want to go?

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  1. Seriously people they are cars not mobile entertainment vehicles and no this is not cool or needed. Man the shallow mined are being suckered again. Cars already are ridiculous in price and are going up 3 to 4 thousand each year. 39 to 65 thousand for a mid range car and a house cost 60 to 110K, more than half the price of a house, I can do without the invasive and intrusive wired cars, pretty soon Insurance companies will require you to own a wired car and monitor your ever move and driving habit to make assessments on how much your insurance premium will be, not a pretty sight. more prying eyes and you (Phandroid) as journalist are promoting such by trying to make it sound new and cool, shame, shame, shame.

    1. These features were already coming whether you like it or not. It makes sense to have a unified operating system to power these systems just like it did for phones. This isn’t Android on the same sense as what is on phones. I imagine this will be more in the vein of Google TV than Android.

    2. We have a wide array of pricing for vehicles today, you want a basic car with nothing? Get it. But I think the majority wants options. I myself like added safety features on my car like white on rice.
      Progressive already offers discounts if you let them track your driving for a bit. And where are prices for houses that much? It’s super expensive here where I am.

  2. Could NVIDIA Automotive help Android shake up an entire industry?…..If executed right, yes.

    But give me a stick shift with either AUX port or Bluetooth…. and I’m good to go…

    1. People also used to say they’d be fine just having a phone to make calls and send texts until they were shown the full possibilities of a smartphone.

  3. This makes sense if they get some killer apps. I feel like the only killer apps are just maps and Pandora right now.

    1. Facebook could be a killer app… killer in the sense of it getting you killed while driving.

      1. Most Facebook users have no life anyway so it’s not such a big deal

      2. As soon as the car is shifted out of park gear or if the handbrake is disengaged all the social media apps close and can’t be accessed again until the vehicle comes to a full stop and is switched off. Our just don’t make social media apps for your vehicles’ systems. It would be a very bad idea to tempt people even more to pay attention to social media while driving.

    2. Those are obviously the main ones, but also imagine diagnostics apps or apps that track mileage and maintenance for fleet or company vehicles. Just imagine what a company like Zipcar could do with a system like this or home automation integration such as Nest knowing when you’ve left work and are commuting home and your garage door opening when you arrive. Uber could create an app for drivers to track mileage for fares. This isn’t so much about repeating what’s already been done but instead to allow developers to do so much more by getting more information from a unified platform.

  4. Sorry! Activity “Brakes” is not responding. Force Close? Wait?

    1. The red screen of Death will be the new “error” everyone will dread seeing, if you catch my drift.

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