Self-Driving Cars Hog Power

Self-driving cars process a tremendous amount of data to pilot themselves through crowded streets. That computing power needs electricity, and lots of it.

1 minute read

February 15, 2018, 2:00 PM PST

By Casey Brazeal @northandclark

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Google / Google

Different modes of transportation pose different engineering problems. One such engineering problem tis how much power self-driving cars use. In the old days, self-driving cars needed extra space and power to hold the computers and monitors they carried. "Today's self-drivers don't need extra engines, but they still use terrific amounts of power to run their onboard sensors and do all the calculations needed to analyze the world and make driving decisions," Jack Stewart reports in Wired.

Why does this matter? Besides using electricity, which can come from sources that release carbon and air pollution, it can also limit the range of vehicles. It's an issue many are looking to tackle. "At CES last month, Nvidia put the spotlight on a new processor designed specifically for autonomous vehicles, called Xavier. It has an eight-core CPU and 512-core GPU, a deep learning accelerator, computer vision accelerators, and 8K video processors," Stewart reports. But even this powerful processor is likely not enough to run a fully autonomous vehicle.

If processors don't become more efficient, they will have another problem beyond limited range: the vehicles could become hot. "That heat is wasted energy, and it’s also not something you want in your car on a hot day. Some robocar prototypes need water-cooling with hoses and radiators, which eat up even more space," Stewart writes.

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