On Oct. 19, electric-vehicle specialist Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA) announced that "all Tesla vehicles in [its] factory -- including Model 3 -- will have the hardware needed for full self-driving capability at a safety level substantially greater than that of a human driver."
That announcement is interesting for Tesla Motors, but there is one other company that stands to benefit immensely from this: graphics specialist NVIDIA (NASDAQ:NVDA).
What hardware is Tesla talking about?
Per TechCrunch, Tesla said that this self-driving hardware includes an NVIDIA Titan graphics processor to handle the computational tasks associated with this self-driving capability.
To put this into perspective, NVIDIA currently sells these Titan add-in-boards through its website for a whopping $1,200. Even if we assume that NVIDIA is giving Tesla a solid volume discount on Titan add-in-boards, we are still talking about many hundreds of dollars of revenue into NVIDIA's coffers for each Tesla vehicle that sells.
That's going to be huge for NVIDIA's automotive business.
Just how much revenue could NVIDIA see?
Let's assume that NVIDIA is selling these Titan cards to Tesla Motors for around $800 apiece (a hefty discount to the $1,200 that NVIDIA sells them for to individuals). A fellow Foolish colleague who closely follows Tesla Motors says that the electric vehicle giant is expected to deliver roughly 79,000 vehicles this year.
Even if we assume that Tesla's deliveries are flat from now on, the opportunity for NVIDIA from this one win should be on the order of $63 million in annual revenue (obviously, this is just an estimate -- the opportunity is a function of both units and average selling prices, and we don't know the latter for sure).
If we assume that Tesla grows its automotive deliveries significantly from here, the opportunity could be much greater than that out in time.
Putting that figure into context
During NVIDIA's fiscal year 2016, the company reported $320 million in automotive-related revenue. It's clear to me that even if we relax the above assumption for what NVIDIA is charging Tesla Motors for its Titan cards, the opportunity for substantial revenue growth from this one win for NVIDIA's automotive business is very real.
Now, in the scheme of NVIDIA's overall business -- which raked in over $5 billion in revenue during fiscal year 2016 -- the opportunity doesn't look as large. However, it's important to keep in perspective that NVIDIA's automotive business is just one of a collection of growth businesses.
The best days for NVIDIA's automotive business, however, appear to be ahead of it. Not only should NVIDIA's partnership with Tesla Motors prove to be increasingly lucrative considering the latter's recent announcement, but I'd imagine that other automotive makers will eventually follow suit in adopting very powerful computers in support of their own self-driving car efforts.
If NVIDIA can get its full-fat graphics processors designed into a large and increasing portion of the cars that get sold each year, then its automotive efforts could be set to enjoy quite profitable -- and rapid -- revenue growth for many years to come.