SAN JOSE, Calif. -- In the first decade of the self-driving vehicle industry, companies have accumulated roughly 15 million miles driven in autonomous mode on public roads.
That's a lot. But it's a small slice of the billions of miles that most experts agree are necessary before fleets of autonomous vehicles can be safely deployed.
Rather than wait decades to gain more experience, companies have adopted AV simulators as an essential tool for helping record mileage in cyber worlds. The movement took another step forward Monday.
Computing company Nvidia said its Drive Constellation virtual proving ground is now available for customers. The first user of the open platform will be the Toyota Research Institute, which said Monday it will integrate a number of Nvidia products throughout its plans for training and developing autonomous driving technology.
The companies made the announcements during GTC, Nvidia's annual technology conference near its headquarters here.
Constellation was introduced at last year's conference. Deploying it with a customer such as the Toyota Research Institute marked something of a milestone for the company, which started making graphics processing units for the video game industry and now plays an integral role in providing computing power and artificial intelligence for more than 70 companies in the automotive industry.
"The benefit of simulation is these miles aren't just regular road miles where nothing happens, and we can control for all different scenarios," said Danny Shapiro, senior director of automotive at Nvidia. "We can make every mile count. Blinding sun, rain, snow, bad actors cutting us off, braking harshly or people jaywalking. The simulator gives us control."