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NVIDIA Corporation's Automotive Business: 3 Things You Need to Know

By Chris Neiger – Oct 10, 2016 at 8:24PM

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Automotive revenues are climbing, more automakers are looking to NVIDIA's processors, and the company continues to double down on new driverless-car technology.

Image source: NVIDIA.

NVIDIA's (NVDA -0.46%) stock price is up more than 150% over the past 12 months, partially on the company's prospects in the automotive business. The company already supplies automakers with graphics processing units (GPUs) for their infotainment systems and is continually building out its self-driving technologies. 

Sales of GPUs in the automotive segment account for only a little more than 8% of NVIDIA's total revenue right now, but with cars using more advanced technology each year, and driverless-car technology becoming more popular, the company could quickly grow that percentage in the coming years. 

Here's how the company's auto business stacks up right now:

Revenue: $119 million and counting

That's how much the company made from its automotive segment in its fiscal second quarter 2017. Now, that's not a lot of money, of course. But investors should keep in mind that it's a 68% increase year over year.

Additionally, NVIDIA is expanding its automotive technology offerings beyond its GPU processors (more on that later), which should help the company grow revenue even more. NVIDIA said its Tegra GPUs experienced a 30% spike in year-over-year revenue in fiscal Q2, and that growth came mainly from sales in its automotive segment. 

Four automakers already know NVIDIA's strength

Carmakers are constantly adding more technology into their vehicles and NVIDIA is already the go-to source for BMW's, Honda's, Volkswagen's, and Tesla's in-car technologies. 

Honda and BMW use NVIDIA's Tegra GPUs for their Honda Connect and iDrive infotainment systems. Tesla's industry-leading touchscreen infotainment system is also powered by NVIDIA's processors, as is the company's 12.3-inch instrument cluster display. In fact, NVIDIA's GPUs can be found in about 10 million different cars on the road right now. 

But some automakers aren't stopping there. BMW, Ford, Daimler, and Audi have all used NVIDIA's autonomous-car platform, called Drive PX. The platform allows automakers to give vehicles situational awareness by processing images collected by onboard cameras, using NVIDIA's GPUs and artificial intelligence algorithms.  

In all, 80 automakers and Tier 1 automotive suppliers already use the company's Drive PX 2 system. 

NVIDIA continues to push into driverless tech

Late last month NVIDIA doubled down on its driverless-car future with a new mapping partnership with TomTom and the introduction of its new Xavier system on a chip (SoC).

The TomTom partnership will combine NVIDIA's driverless-car computer with TomTom's 74,000 miles of HD maps to make real-time in-vehicle mapping easier for automakers. The technology will be available as open source and should help automakers accelerate their self-driving vehicle builds.

Additionally, NVIDIA's new Xavier SoC is the company's next generation of driverless-car processors. The new SoC delivers 20 trillion operations per second and uses a quarter of the power that the original Drive PX chip used. The company also said that one Xavier chip can replace Drive PX2 with a dual mobile SoCs and dual discrete GPUs. In short, it's faster, uses less power, and has far more artificial intelligence capabilities. 

Playing the long game

The driverless-car market is expected to be worth $77 billion by 2035, according to Boston Consulting Group, and by that time nearly 1 in 10 new cars sold will have advanced self-driving capabilities.

NVIDIA is progressing quickly into the driverless-car space, but it may take some time for investors to see the revenue gains from its current moves. Until self-driving cars become more prevalent, investors should look to the dominant position of NVIDIA's GPUs in the gaming market to continue fueling the company. But make no mistake: NVIDIA is positioning itself perfectly to benefit from increasing technologies in the automotive space. 

Chris Neiger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Ford, NVIDIA, and Tesla Motors. The Motley Fool recommends BMW. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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