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Toyota taps Nvidia simulator to develop self-driving cars

Graphics chip designer ramps up auto business as data center demand languishes

Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang announced the collaboration with Toyota Motor at a tech conference in San Jose. (Photo by Hiromi Sato) 

PALO ALTO, U.S. -- Nvidia will provide simulation technology for Toyota Motor's automated-vehicle development, the latest effort to strengthen the American company's automotive business amid weakness in such other fields as data center chips.

The graphics processor designer is working with Toyota group members including the Toyota Research Institute-Advanced Development, a research arm for automated-driving technology, under a partnership announced Monday.

The institute will test cameras and sensors in a virtual space with varying weather and traffic conditions, using a system built on Nvidia's graphics processing technology. Combining the simulation with road test data is seen helping development of software to control self-driving vehicles.

"Toyota, the world's largest car company, the largest transportation company, is partnering with us from end to end -- from deep learning systems to simulation systems to in-car computers to collaboration with AI," to "create the future of autonomous vehicles," CEO Jensen Huang said at a technology conference in San Jose.

Nvidia unveiled the simulation system last year, leveraging related experience in games. Toyota is the first automaker to say it will employ this technology.

The collaboration is an extension of a tie-up announced in 2017. Toyota employs Nvidia graphics processing units in prototype vehicles.

Nvidia's automotive operations generated $641 million in revenue in the fiscal year ended Jan. 27, only 5% of the total. The company seeks to bolster the business by tying up with Toyota.

Nvidia needs an earnings driver besides its mainstay business in game GPUs. The market crash in cryptocurrencies has hurt demand for GPUs used in mining them, and sales of products used in data centers are foundering.

The company announced last week an agreement to purchase Israeli network products company Mellanox Technologies for $6.9 billion.

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