Nvidia unveils ‘super chip’ as it sets sights on car industry

New Tegra X1 will power tech firms Drive platforms

Tech firm Nvidia is setting its sights on the car industry, with a new chip that will power its in-car computers.

The company unveiled its new Tegra X1 ahead of the International CES event in Las Vegas, where tech firms will showcase their new products and services to thousands of attendees over four days.

Built on the Maxwell GPU architecture, Nvidia’s new super chip has eight processing cores, 256 graphics cores and more than one teraflops of processing power. It can also handle 4K video and is power efficient, drawing only 10 watts of power.

Scheduled for launch in the first half of the year, the chip offers about twice the performance of the Tegra K1, its predecessor. It’s also more powerful than ASCI Red, the fastest supercomputer of 15 years ago that was the world’s first teraflops system. But the Tegra X1 is significantly smaller. Where ASCI Red took up about 1,600 square feet, the Tegra X1 is about the size of a thumbnail.


Nvidia chief executive Jen-Hsun Huang, described the new chip as a "giant step" into the revolution that would see significant advances in visual and parallel computing.

“We see a future of autonomous cars, robots and drones that see and learn, with seeming intelligence that is hard to imagine,” he said. “They will make possible safer driving, more secure cities and great conveniences for all of us.”

The Nvidia co-founder also demonstrated its new in-car computing platforms. The Nvidia Drive PX, which is powered by two Tegra X1 chips, brings new autopilot capabilities to cars. Aimed at making driving safer, it will even park your car for you.

The Nvidia Drive CX, meanwhile, is a cockpit computer that brings advances such as digital mirrors and a complete 360-degree view of the car to drivers.

The company's partners include Audi, with executive vice president of Electrical/Electronics Development at the car company Ricky Hudi describing Drive PX as a "crucial tool" for further research and development.

The Tegra line of chips are aimed at powering everything from mobile devices and embedded products to autonomous machines and cars. The company is trying to broaden the market for its products.

CES is due to open on January 6th and will run until January 9th. More than 3,500 exhibitors will showcase products and services on the show floor over the four days, to thousands of attendees from all over the world.

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist