Executive Briefings

'These Computers Can't Fail.' Why Autonomous Cars Are So Challenging, According to Nvidia's CEO

Self-driving cars, a.k.a. autonomous vehicles, appear poised to take over the world. They’re everywhere, on movie screens and in magazine pages. The Jetsons-esque notion that a car could drive you to your desired destination — look Ma, no hands! — is beginning to sink in for many of us, even as we putter to work and other destinations in our exceedingly manual vehicles.

'These Computers Can't Fail.' Why Autonomous Cars Are So Challenging, According to Nvidia's CEO

The future really is now — or at least sooner than it seems, according to Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang. Speaking at a Fortune Brainstorm Tech dinner on the eve of the opening to CES, the annual consumer electronics show, Huang, who is a founder of the gaming giant turned artificial intelligence powerhouse, says the full expression of the technology is a mere decade away. But we don’t need to wait that long to appreciate just how challenging a computational problem it is — and how much commercial value awaits.

“We’ve always believed that robotics were important. And robotics are autonomous machines,” Huang told Fortune executive editor Adam Lashinsky in an interview. “The simplest autonomous machine is the self-driving car. But it’s the most impactful.”

Over the century that humans have been driving, they have created rules, infrastructure, and more to allow drivers of all ages and skill levels to drive, Huang said. All you need is a 10-minute driver’s test to legally hit the open road. “Obviously it’s a skill that’s very simple,” he said. For a human, that is.

“How do you take all these things called driving skills and codify it into a machine?” he asked the audience, a group of technologists, entrepreneurs, and financiers gathered at the Picasso restaurant at the Bellagio hotel. “That turns out to be pretty hard.” Even something that relatively simple for a human, he added, stands to be the most complex computing task the world has ever achieved.

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The future really is now — or at least sooner than it seems, according to Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang. Speaking at a Fortune Brainstorm Tech dinner on the eve of the opening to CES, the annual consumer electronics show, Huang, who is a founder of the gaming giant turned artificial intelligence powerhouse, says the full expression of the technology is a mere decade away. But we don’t need to wait that long to appreciate just how challenging a computational problem it is — and how much commercial value awaits.

“We’ve always believed that robotics were important. And robotics are autonomous machines,” Huang told Fortune executive editor Adam Lashinsky in an interview. “The simplest autonomous machine is the self-driving car. But it’s the most impactful.”

Over the century that humans have been driving, they have created rules, infrastructure, and more to allow drivers of all ages and skill levels to drive, Huang said. All you need is a 10-minute driver’s test to legally hit the open road. “Obviously it’s a skill that’s very simple,” he said. For a human, that is.

“How do you take all these things called driving skills and codify it into a machine?” he asked the audience, a group of technologists, entrepreneurs, and financiers gathered at the Picasso restaurant at the Bellagio hotel. “That turns out to be pretty hard.” Even something that relatively simple for a human, he added, stands to be the most complex computing task the world has ever achieved.

Read Full Article

'These Computers Can't Fail.' Why Autonomous Cars Are So Challenging, According to Nvidia's CEO