Self-driving startup QCraft will equip the next generation of its autonomous driving system with Nvidia’s Drive Orin processing chip. The chip can be deployed to both self-driving prototypes and mass-produced vehicles.

Why it matters: Nvidia claims the Drive Orin system-on-a-chip (SoC), unveiled in late 2019 and scheduled for shipping in 2022, is by far the “world’s highest-performance, most-advanced” processor for use in autonomous vehicles (AVs). Its use will allow QCraft to develop driverless vehicles for road testing and partially automated cars for the consumer market.

Details: Nvidia’s Drive Orin chipsets will underpin the hardware suite that will be fitted as standard for QCraft’s next-generation self-driving car fleet, the two companies announced as they unveiled the deal at an event on Tuesday.

  • Capable of performing 254 trillion operations per second (TOPS), the Orin supercomputer will be the brain of QCraft’s vehicles, providing the necessary power to process inputs from multiple sensors as well as GPS and mapping data, according to a statement released Tuesday.
  • QCraft will begin testing its AVs with the Nvidia-assisted computing platforms by the end of next month, given that it already has experience in adopting the chipmaker’s technology, chief technology officer Hou Cong told reporters during an online conference on Wednesday.
  • The self-driving startup, backed by tech giants Bytedance and Meituan, on Wednesday also unveiled its third-generation hardware system, including nine cameras, five lidar units, and four millimeter-wave radar units, claiming a lower production cost and improved sensing capabilities.
  • The technology costs of installing an array of sensors in vehicles will be lowered to between RMB 100,000 and RMB 150,000 ($15,620 to $23,430) in the next two years, chief executive Yu Qian told Chinese media last month. A testing AV reportedly costs at least $130,000 in sensors and computers, according to John Krafcik, former CEO of Google’s self-driving subsidiary Waymo.

Context: Nvidia has also signed a series of deals with Chinese electric vehicle upstarts (including Nio, Li Auto, and WM Motor), supplying their upcoming vehicle models with the chipmaker’s SoCs.

  • QCraft has been operating a self-driving test fleet of nearly 100 vehicles for public transit and ride-hailing pilot services in nine domestic cities, including Shenzhen and Wuhan. It is also developing assisted driving technologies for several automakers, chief scientist Da Fang told TechNode in September.
  • In August, it raised $100 million in a Series A+ led by YF Capital (the investment firm founded by Jack Ma) and participated in by Longzhu Capital, a venture capital fund of Chinese on-demand service giant Meituan.

Jill Shen

Jill Shen is Shanghai-based technology reporter. She covers Chinese mobility, autonomous vehicles, and electric cars. Connect with her via e-mail: jill.shen@technode.com or Twitter: @yushan_shen