Biz Break: Nvidia moves to get inside self-driving cars

Top Of The Order:  

Nvidia Inside: By now, it seems like everyone and anyone is getting in on the ground floor of the self-driving car “industry.” I say “industry” because, let’s face it, a lot of this stuff is still in the development stage, with very few self-driving cars even on the road in the testing stage. We still have some time to go before cars that drive themselves, with or without a person in the driver’s seat to ensure everything runs smoothly, become as common as your run-of-the-mill Honda.

(But seriously…It’s 2016. Shouldn’t self-driving cars be everywhere by now? It will probably take longer for real driverless cars to be on the road than it took to build the Pyramids. And those were done long before the internal combustion engine came around.)

Anyway, self-driving car technology holds the promise of being the Next Big Thing. Which is why so many companies want to get in on the game. And one of those is Nvidia.

You may be asking, “Nvidia? The guys who make the graphics chip inside of my laptop?” Yes, that’s the one. Nvidia is partnering up with Chinese internet kingpin Baidu to make cloud-based mapping and road-reaction technology that can be built into self-driving cars.

Nvidia Chief Executive Jen-Hsun Huang talked about the partnership at the Baidu World Conference in Beijing Wednesday, saying it would work “from the cloud to the car,” and that the first customers to get the technology would be Chinese car makers. No names of specific car makers were mentioned, but Huang said the platform, called the Drive PX 2, would also be available to other automakers.

A Nvidia spokesman clarified that the company wouldn’t be making any self-driving cars itself, but it will be about as close as it can get to the car without putting its name on the vehicle. Baidu has already started testing its own self-driving cars in Beijing, and recently got the OK to begin testing those vehicles in California.

Middle Innings:

The Missouri Middleman: Tesla likes doing things just a bit different in the car industry. Exhibit A of that would be its battery-powered cars. Exhibit B would be its idea about selling cars directly to consumers. Why use the middleman?

Well, at least in Missouri, the middleman is staying in place. A judge in Cole County, Missouri ruled this week that the Missouri Revenue Department violated state law when, in 2013, it gave Tesla a license for a dealership in one town, and a franchise dealer license in another town in 2014. Judge Daniel Green said those moves allowed Tesla to sell cars straight to consumers instead of a dealership acting like a middleman.

In his ruling, Green said that “a single entity may not manufacture vehicles for sale in Missouri and possess a new motor vehicle dealer license.” Tesla said it plans on appealing the decision.

Bottom Of The Lineup: 

Here’s a look at how some leading Silicon Valley stocks did Thursday…

Movin’ On Up: Gains came from FireEye, Palo Alto Networks, QuinStreet, Rambus and Finisar.

In The Red: Decliners included SolarCity, Tesla,, Glu Mobile and Lending Club.

The tech-focused Nasdaq Composite Index rose 0.3 percent to  5,227.21.

The blue chip Dow Jones Industrial Average edged up by 0.1 percent to 18,419.30.

And the broad-based Standard & Poor’s 500 Index closed at its break-even point of 2,170.86.

Quote Of The Day: “I’m deeply disappointed to hear that SpaceX’s launch failure destroyed our satellite.” — Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, upon learning that a SpaceX rocket that included a satellite Facebook would use for sending internet access to Africa and other regions exploded Thursday during a test in Florida.

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Photo: Illustration of a car using Nvidia’s Drive PX technology (Courtesy Nvidia)


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