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Nvidia details Constellation self-driving simulation system

The tools that helped Waymo establish a clear lead may now be available to a wider range of companies.

Nvidia has revealed Drive Constellation, a virtual reality autonomous vehicle simulator that aims to hasten development of self-driving software.

Simulation has helped give Waymo a wide lead over established automakers and other startups. The company last month surpassed five million real-world miles. In the same time, the software was put through 2.7 billion miles of testing in a virtual world, allowing algorithms to be quickly refined and tested against numerous variations of certain tricky real-world or hypothetical scenarios.

Nvidia is now attempting to bring the same type of technology to a wider range of companies that use the Drive autonomous computing platform.

Constellation relies on two different types of server, one running Drive Sim software to simulate photorealistic data from self-driving vehicles' sensors, such as lidar and cameras. The second server contains a Drive Pegasus AI computer, matching hardware that is installed in vehicles. Driving commands are fed back into the simulator, creating a feedback loop that can be used to validate algorithms.

"This means you can easily test rare and difficult conditions: rainstorms, snowstorms, and sharp glare at different times of the day and night, with different road surfaces and surroundings," the company says.

Drive Constellation will begin rolling out to early access partners in the third quarter.