Nvidia suspends self-driving tests after Uber accident

Temporary suspension while Uber incident scrutinised

Chipmaker Nvidia has revealed it has suspended self-driving tests across the globe, a week after an Uber Technologies Inc autonomous vehicle hit and killed a woman crossing the street in Arizona.

"Ultimately, autonomous vehicles will be far safer than human drivers, so this important work needs to continue. We are temporarily suspending the testing of our self-driving cars on public roads to learn from the Uber incident," a company spokesman said.

"Our global fleet of manually driven data collection vehicles continue to operate."

Uber suspended North American tests of its self-driving vehicles after the fatal collision on March 18 in Tempe, Arizona.

The incident has raised questions about the safety of autonomous technology in general, and of Uber's system specifically.

Nvidia is testing its technology globally including in New Jersey, Santa Clara, Japan and Germany.

"Nvidia has no choice but to take steps in the context of the fear, uncertainty and outrage likely to be stimulated by a robot car killing a human being," Roger Lanctot, an automotive technology analyst with Strategy Analytics, wrote in a blog post.

"This is precisely the type of event that is capable of slaying a nascent industry in the crib," Lanctot wrote.

Analyst Kinngai Chan from Summit Insight Group does not expect the suspension to hurt Nvidia's earnings.

The question is whether it would be one or two years before fully autonomous vehicles are ready, Chan said, adding if it's pushed out further then the multiple for stock needs to come down as the valuation is very high.

Nvidia, which generates bulk of its revenue from chips used in gaming and data centers, reported automotive revenue of US$132 million in the fourth quarter ended Jan. 28. That mainly includes revenue from infotainment and development agreements for self-driving cars.

Nvidia leads the autonomous industry with its artificial intelligence platform and has partnered with major global automakers such as Volkswagen, Tesla and Audi AG.

Uber has been using Nvidia's computing technology since its first test fleet of Volvo SC90 SUVS were deployed in 2016.

Around 320 firms involved in self-driving cars - from software developers, automakers and their suppliers, sensor and mapping companies - use Nvidia Drive platform, according to the company's website.

(Reporting by Alexandria Sage in San Fransisco and Sonam Rai in Bengaluru, Additional reporting by Supantha Mukherjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)

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